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Halt has helped injured Aaron Judge, but can he stay on the field?

The Yankees' Aaron Judge runs on the field

The Yankees' Aaron Judge runs on the field during a spring training workout on Feb. 18 in Tampa, Fla. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

It continues to be anyone’s guess as to whether there will be a 2020 baseball season.

But the indefinite delay is allowing Aaron Judge, as well as other injured Yankees such as Giancarlo Stanton and James Paxton, to rehab injuries.

“He’s using this time to continue to heal,” Aaron Boone said of Judge  last week on the YES Network. “Obviously, it’s been very productive having the chance to have this time to allow the rib to heal. And that is happening.”

Judge, who turned 28 Sunday, missed all of spring training with a right rib fracture that he and the Yankees traced to the fifth inning of a game against the Angels last Sept. 18, when he landed awkwardly in an unsuccessful diving attempt to catch a sinking liner. (Judge also had a punctured lung, an injury he disclosed to reporters March 20. He traced that to the dive as well.)

“That’s the silver lining in all of this, having the ability to not feel rushed trying to get back for a certain date,” Judge said  March 20. “We don’t really have a date right now. I’m just trying to let it heal. Not trying to rush it.”

Still,  the injuries renewed questions about Judge’s long-term durability.  

Three full seasons into his big-league career, his abilities speak for themselves. He has averaged a .279/.401/.572 slash line, 35 homers and 79 RBIs in 123 games the last three years  (including 52 home runs and 114 RBIs in 2017, when he was  named AL Rookie of the Year and was the MVP runner-up). It’s been considerable, and consistent, offensive output, all while playing mostly terrific defense in rightfield.

But  since 2017, Judge's defense has involved a fair amount of his 6-7, 282-pound frame hitting the ground and/or unforgiving outfield walls with some degree of regularity. Though not all of his injuries correlate —  he missed 45 games in 2018 after being hit by a pitch and suffering a chip fracture in his right wrist, and  a strained left oblique cost him 54 games last season  —  Judge said during spring training that although he does not intend to change his hard-charging style of play, he will consider the circumstances of doing so.

“The scoreboard usually dictates when you should dive and when you shouldn’t dive, and then especially where you’re at in the season [is a consideration],” he said. “A game May 2 and we’re already winning 9-1, do you need to dive for this ball? Or is this Game 7 of the World Series or you need to win that one game? You’ve got to make those plays. It’s just about playing smarter.”

As he battled Aaron Hicks in spring training 2017 for the starting job in rightfield — both contenders performed well in the competition, which lasted into the final week of exhibition games — Judge talked about his admiration for players who can be relied upon as an everyday presence in the lineup. That perspective only added to his injury frustrations the last two years.

“You’ve got to be out there if you’re going to be the leader of a team and a force in a lineup,” Judge said in spring training this year. “Some of those things, like getting hit in the wrist, that’s stuff you can’t really do anything about. Then last year, pulling an oblique, that makes it tough. But my stance is still the same on that — if you’re going to be a leader on a team, you have to be out there every day.”

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