The Yankees’ three best hitters are on the injured list at the same time.
If you listen to Aaron Judge, it didn’t have to be this way.
DJ LeMahieu sprained his left thumb in Saturday night’s game and was put on the 10-day IL on Sunday. He joined Judge, who went on the list Thursday with a mild right calf strain, and Giancarlo Stanton, who was sidelined last weekend with a left hamstring strain.
Judge said he lobbied hard not to be put on the IL because he believed his malady required only a few days off and he didn’t want to be out of the lineup for 10. He is eligible to return on Saturday.
“I was begging for just a couple days, not really 10 days, and I don't need 10 days to be feeling good,” he said. “I already feel 100% now. So it's tough, tough especially now with [Stanton] out and DJ out. It makes it tough, but it's all precautionary stuff and we'll be back there on Saturday.”
“We had a lot of conversations, a lot of back-and-forth about it,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It's hard because I know who he is, I know the competitor he is and obviously the greatness that he brings to the table. But I think when you're dealing with the soft tissue? For me, it was a little bit of an easy decision just based on not wanting this to become a big issue. . . . I thought that was the smart way to go.”
Judge played the outfield in a doubleheader against the Rays on the hard turf at Tropicana Field and began to feel tightness in his calf on Aug. 8. He then played Sunday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday's game before the Yankees decided against letting him play through it.
Judge believes the root of this calf injury was trying to play the field at Tropicana while wearing spikes. He said he has been counseled by other players to play the field in turf sneakers – what he called “tennis shoes” – and then switch to spikes before coming to the plate.
Judge has rested the past few days and was to do some running drills on Sunday before the game against the Red Sox. He will begin hitting activities on Monday, he said.
Judge was sidelined in spring training by a broken rib and a collapsed lung. He healed in the time before summer camp and, Boone has said, having that behind him liberated him from health concerns and set him on course for a great season.
“This is the best I've felt in a while, so that's why I'm pretty frustrated [at] being put on the DL for something that's just a couple-day thing,” Judge said. “I think they're just kind of looking out for me so it doesn't get worse because, you know, [calf injuries] may start mild, but if you push them, they may turn into a Grade 1 or Grade 2 [strain].
“I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated with the organization. This shows how much the organization cares for me and looks out for my well-being. . . . I’m just frustrated with myself not being out there.”
Judge has a team-high 1.101 OPS with an American League-leading nine home runs. His 20 RBIs were second in the AL entering Sunday and his 16 runs tied him for fourth in the league. Stanton’s OPS is 1.038 and LeMahieu’s .990.
The Yankees’ impressive depth should be able to absorb these body blows coming all at once. Remember, this is the team that had 29 players make 36 trips to the injured list last season and still won 103 games.
Mike Tauchman has gotten most of the playing time ceded by Judge. He went into Sunday night's game batting .342 and was third in the batting order.