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Aaron Judge out of the lineup but feeling great after latest return

Aaron Judge of the Yankees swings at a

Aaron Judge of the Yankees swings at a pitch during the fourth inning against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

If Aaron Judge ever questioned the importance of a calf, those days are long gone. Out of the lineup, but seemingly in the clear of further trouble, Judge said that he felt great Thursday afternoon before the Yankees’ series-ending game against the Blue Jays at the Stadium. The slugger returned from a calf injury Wednesday night, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in another Yankees lopsided win.

It was Judge’s second turn on the injured list with the same calf injury. He returned from a two-week bout with the balky leg muscle on Aug. 26, but only played 5 ½ innings before exiting the game and reentering the Yankees’ then-crowded injury situation.

Despite the untimely start-and-stop, Judge said that he thought the Yankees’ training staff handled his rehab correctly and, if anything, he rushed himself back.

"I never had a calf injury before, which kind of makes it tough, not really knowing" Judge said Thursday. "I’ve had a quad before, I’ve had oblique and shoulder stuff, but you kind of play through that and deal with that. It’s the unknown of a calf injury and how much you use it. I didn’t realize how much you use your calf in daily life and baseball, how explosive it is and how weight-bearing it is."

Judge said that he did not experience any tightness or pain Wednesday night, a welcome development from when he came back three weeks ago and tightness persisted.

"When there’s no tightness and it feels like normal, that’s when I knew I was ready to go," Judge said. "It’s been feeling great down at the alternate site playing the games down there and last night playing the game, even though I was a little more amped up and ready to go, it felt great and responded well."

Judge said that the calf felt so good the morning after that he tried to get manager Aaron Boone to put him in the lineup on Thursday.

That battle, however, Judge did not win.

Boone said that Judge, who was hitting .275 with nine homers and 20 RBIs entering play Thursday, will likely play Friday and Saturday against the Red Sox and take Sunday off.

Right now, Boone is trying to massage three of his top hitters back into the everyday lineup and back toward health before the playoffs. Giancarlo Stanton returned Tuesday from a hamstring injury that held him out over a month and was back in the cleanup spot Thursday. Gleyber Torres returned to the lineup Thursday, hitting fifth, after missing two straight games with a quad injury.

"I feel great about our lineup right now," Boone said. "We’re running out a lot of really good players, a lot of really good hitters that I think complement each other well. It’s definitely exciting as we get some of our dudes back in there."

And the trickle-down effect of the Yankees getting three of their best bats back in the lineup? It vastly improves the bench, Boone said.

"Anytime you get great players back in the mix, as a manager you get excited to write those names down," Boone said. "I think that does give you another jolt of energy, having those guys not only in your lineup and between the lines, but just what they bring from a swagger standpoint in the dugout."

The Yankees entered Thursday night winners of seven games in a row and three games behind the Rays in the AL East with 11 games left.

"I think we’re the best team out there and we’re going to continue to show it," Judge said. "We’ve had a lot of key guys miss some time, but I think we’re getting back to full strength at the right time, right down at the end, right down the stretch."

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