CHICAGO – When the words left his mouth Thursday, saying Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton would be on the field Friday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre sounded good to Aaron Boone.
Still, the fact that the two sluggers actually were in the Scranton lineup Friday night in Durham, North Carolina, made this eventuality even more real: Two of the Yankees’ biggest bats are nearing their return.
“Obviously, it’s getting closer to that,” Boone said with a smile before Friday night’s game against the White Sox. “They have to get through these final steps and hurdles and rack up some time here, but we’re starting to plan and get excited for them hopefully joining us at some point during the homestand.”
After this four-game series against the White Sox that concludes Sunday, the Yankees open a 10-game homestand Monday against the Rays. Stanton is on target to return before Judge, likely on Tuesday. Judge will play with Scranton a bit longer but is expected back not too long after Stanton.
Judge, the designated hitter, batted leadoff Friday night, followed by Stanton, who started in right. Judge struck out his first three times up and then grounded to second. Stanton, playing six innings in the field as scheduled, went 1-for-3. He struck out in his first and third at-bats but crushed a home run to left in his second, a shot one talent evaluator in attendance described as “an absolute moonshot” that hit off the third deck of a building there.
“With Giancarlo, we feel like this weekend might finish him off and he’d be ready pretty early in the homestand for us,” Boone said. “With Aaron, he’ll be DHing these first two days; he’s going to play rightfield probably Sunday. But we’ll want him to get out there and get some back-to-back games where he’s on defense. And it’s more about building up that kind of in-baseball shape sort of thing. Whereas, obviously, Giancarlo’s a little further along there, but I feel really good about physically where Aaron’s at right now.”
Stanton went to the injured list April 1 with a left biceps strain, an injury he recovered from, even starting a rehab assignment with Tampa on May 21. But he was hit in his left calf by a pitch May 17, and lingering issues with that caused the Yankees to stop his rehab, placing him back on the IL with left calf tightness.
He began another rehab assignment Tuesday with high Class A Tampa and hit three homers in two games before getting transferred Friday to Scranton.
Judge, on the IL since April 21 with a left oblique strain, played in simulated games back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday at the club’s minor-league complex in Tampa.
Judge’s rehab process at times went at a crawl, but once he started taking batting practice indoors two weeks ago, things “ramped” up considerably, to use a favorite expression of Boone's.
“With that injury, obviously hitting was going to be the last thing and the thing we were going to be conservative with and almost careful with to make sure we felt like that was completely out of there before we started ramping him up,” Boone said. “Now it’s, because of the nature of that injury too, you’re down [not as active], you have to kind of build up and get back in shape a little bit. I think the work he’s been able to put in, not only on at home before he left for Tampa but then down in Tampa, we feel like he’s in really good shape. Now it’s just a matter of racking up some innings where he’s playing in a game, getting the at-bats and playing on defense and all that goes with that.”