MINNEAPOLIS — It was the most significant step forward yet for Aaron Judge.
The rightfielder, on the disabled list since July 27 with a chip fracture in his right wrist, was among the early arrivals Monday afternoon at Target Field, taking batting practice on the field, a first during his rehab.
“Kind of a typical Aaron Judge BP, putting on a show,” Aaron Boone said with a smile before Monday night’s game against the Twins. “Went really well. Another big step for him to get back on the field. Hopefully as he bounces back and continues to be able to bounce back we’ll ramp that up and start to really build up endurance.”
Judge went through five rounds of BP Monday, showing no signs of discomfort. He blasted a handful out of the ballpark, most memorably one that nearly landed in the third deck in left-center, an area here that sees few baseballs, in BP or otherwise.
“You understand it’s another step in the progression,” Boone said. “So you do get excited when you see, obviously, one of your best players working his way back and hopefully what was a big step to him getting back to us toward the end of the season.”
Judge, for whom there’s still no timetable for a return, began hitting off a tee last Monday in Oakland before the Yankees started a three-game series against the A’s. The Yankees gradually added more to his workload as the week went on.
“Just progressing, that’s been the most exciting part, no setbacks, no nothing like that,” Judge said Sunday in Seattle.
Asked if the pain was completely gone, Judge said: “Pain’s not gone, it’s still broken.”
Boone downplayed that comment.
“It’s pretty much out of there,” Boone said.
But without question the 26-year-old can see the light at the end of a tunnel that until very recently seemed endlessly dark.
“I’m confident with how it’s feeling right now,” Judge said Sunday. “I was confident from when it first happened, I knew I was going to be back in plenty of time and be back in some meaningful games here down the stretch. I’m getting one step closer every day to that. I’m just looking forward to that.”
How close Judge is to that end remains murky.
“Assuming he comes in and bounces back well, a few more reps, a few more swings than he did today,” Boone said of a next step. “You might see him in a BP group during actual BP [right before the game]. But we’ll continue to just ramp up his workload in trying to build up his stamina as far as he can tolerate.”
What is also unclear is what the Yankees will do when Judge is deemed ready for a rehab assignment. The minor league seasons are all but done, though Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre starts the Governors’ Cup finals Tuesday at home against Durham. Game 3 is scheduled Thursday in Durham with, if necessary, Games 4 and 5 to following Friday and Saturday.
“That’s something we’ll weigh,” Boone said. “We’re not at that point to where we’re going to throw him into games yet. If and when that time comes, he may be able to go get simulated at-bats in Tampa [at the minor league complex], if we decide that route. If the RailRiders becomes an option, we’ll consider that. But we just want to get through these next couple days where he starts ramping up the amount of swings out on the field and continues to build that momentum.”