Aaron Judge #99 of the Yankees reacts after he was...

Aaron Judge #99 of the Yankees reacts after he was hit by a pitch in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Credit: Jim McIsaac

It could have been worse.

Far, far worse.

The Yankees received the best news possible late Tuesday night when X-rays and a CT scan taken of Aaron Judge’s left hand came back negative.

And even though Judge wasn’t in the lineup Wednesday night against the Orioles and still felt some soreness in the hand, the centerfielder felt far better than he did the night before and was able to take some swings in the batting cage.

“I think it’s day-to-day,” Aaron Boone said before the game. “It was probably close [Judge playing] today. So we’ll just kind of see. Hopefully tomorrow but we’ll see. He was better today but definitely is still pretty sore in there, so I don’t want him to go out there and kind of compromise anything just to fight through it.”

Judge took an Alberto Suarez 94-mph fastball off the hand in the third inning of Tuesday night’s 4-2 victory and clearly was in pain, even as he stayed in the game (and scored a run later in the inning).

After playing the field in the top of the fourth, Judge was removed for what Boone called “precautionary” reasons. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t organizational concern – petrified isn’t too strong of a word – regarding a possible long-term injury and its impact on the club.

Judge, after a rough April, leads the sport in home runs (26), RBIs (64), slugging (.687) and OPS (1.115). He is very much cut from the same mold of the club’s previous captain, Derek Jeter, in that he rarely, if ever, wants a day off.

But Boone said Judge and he were on the same page when it came to sitting Wednesday.

Judge was concerned, too, before getting the results of Tuesday night’s imaging of his hand.

And for good reason, based on prior experience.

“Anytime you get hit by 94, 95 up and in like that, especially in the hand, where there's so many small bones and ligaments, you just never know what's going to happen or what it's going to be," Judge said.

It was reminiscent of 2018 when Judge missed 45 games after being hit by a 93-mph fastball from the Royals' Jakob Junis and suffered a chip fracture in his right wrist.

The feeling at impact was familiar enough to cause that kind of worry.

“Feeling better after I got some good news,” Judge said. “Big relief. Being hit there [on the hand] before, a couple years ago and breaking the wrist, you never know what’s going to happen. Finding out that it’s not fractured, it’s not broken, is definitely a sigh of relief.”

Remembering Willie Mays

Judge grew up a little over two hours east of San Francisco in Linden, California, as a huge fan of the Giants. Not surprisingly, Judge, who freely describes himself as “old school” when it comes to the sport, as a kid was more than familiar with the legend of Willie Mays, who died Tuesday at the age of 93. After Tuesday’s game, Judge said when he was young, there was a friend of his family who was “pretty close” with Mays’ family.

“I got a chance to meet him,” Judge said. “He showed me a couple of things about throwing the baseball in from the outfield, which I still remember. I have a couple of cool things are signed in my childhood room still. So pretty cool.”

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