The Yankees could be without one of their top sluggers as they trudge into a pivotal divisional series on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend.
Right fielder Aaron Judge was kept out of the Yankees’ lineup in their series finale against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night with left side soreness. After the game, manager Aaron Boone said it’s too early to tell whether or not Judge will be available in Tampa on Friday.
Judge has had rib and oblique issues in the past, which is why Boone and the Yankees want to get out in front of his latest injury to prevent it from worsening. Given Judge’s extensive injury history overall, New York is doing the right thing by playing it safe.
Although Judge and fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton were commended for picking up yoga this offseason, as an attempt to prevent future injuries, unfortunately it didn't take long for Judge to start experiencing issues.
If the Yankees were to lose Judge for an extended period of time, it would open the door for outfielders Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman to fill in during his absence.
New York’s offense has averaged 4.2 runs per contest over their first six games, but that mark has been a bit skewed as they scored 14 runs in the first two games of their previous series against Baltimore.
Luckily, with or without Judge, the Yankees are in a prime position to make some noise offensively as they prepare to face Rays’ starters Rich Hill (4 IP, 4 ER) and Chris Archer (2 IP, 3 ER), who are both coming off poor outings.
While Archer has great career numbers against the Yankees, he's coming off surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, which has derailed the careers of several big-name pitchers, including former Mets ace Matt Harvey.
The Yankees and Rays will be facing off on Friday for the first time since their heated matchup in the American League Division Series last October. The Rays are not off to the best start this season, as they were swept by the Boston Red Sox to open the season and are only averaging 3.5 runs per game offensively. Tampa Bay's pitching staff has surrendered an average of seven runs per contest.
On the other side, the Yankees have right-handers Corey Kluber (4.2 IP, 1 ER), Domingo Germán (3 IP, 3 ER) and southpaw Jordan Montgomery (6 IP, 0 ER) set to start the next three games. The Yankees need their rotation to sustain their early success moving forward while their lineup will need to pick up some slack, especially if Judge needs to go on the injured list.
For now, Boone and Co. are in wait-and-see mode when it comes to the availability of their slugger over the next few days.
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