BUFFALO – In his first four games after returning from the injured list last week, Aaron Judge was mostly quiet at the plate.
Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays – in which he served as the DH – Judge was 2-for-17 with seven strikeouts, two walks and zero extra base hits.
Besides the obvious – that it is an incredibly small sample size from which to draw any conclusions – the numbers aren’t the primary thing Aaron Boone is looking at when it comes to the rightfielder, limited to just 23 games this season, counting Tuesday night’s, because of a right calf strain.
"It’s good to see him moving so well," Boone said before Tuesday’s game. "Right now, I think it’s, for him, just racking up at-bats and really locking in. He’s gotten into a lot of deep counts, a couple balls he’s had a chance to do something with he’s put on the ground. Feel like, as he sees more and more pitches, he’s close to locking it in. So I’ve been encouraged with what I’ve seen and, most importantly, physically he’s been good and bouncing back well."
Judge looked good in the first inning, singling sharply to left against in the first against righthander Tanner Roark, then motoring around from first to score on Aaron Hicks’ triple into the corner in left.
"Calf feels good. No issues. I’ve been able to run around pain free with no problems," Judge said after Monday’s game. "Feeling good in the box. Like I’ve said, it’s going to take four of five game to get the timing back. Just getting back slowly but surely. We’re getting close."
Judge, hitting .256 with nine homers and a .924 OPS going into Tuesday, has already in his young career established himself as a postseason performer. In three postseasons, Judge has produced a .910 OPS with eight homers and 17 RBIs in 27 games total.
While Boone has been careful with Judge since his return from the IL – giving him the occasional DH day or outright day off – that is not expected to be the case once the playoffs begin.
"Yes, I do," Boone said, asked if the reins would be completely off Judge for the postseason. "Because, first and foremost, when we brought him back, we believed, and believe, he’s healthy. So now it’s just about building him up and hopefully by the end of the season, he’ll have played, whatever, eight, or nine or 10 games and had that level of at-bats and workload. So once we get to the playoffs, it’s go."
After Monday night’s loss, the Yankees optioned RHP Michael King, who allowed five runs and five hits over 2 2/3 innings in the setback, to the club’s alternate site in Moosic, Pennsylvania. As a corresponding move, the team signed LHP Tyler Lyons to a major-league contract and selected him to the active roster. Additionally, the Yankees recalled RHP Ben Heller and put him on the 60-day IL with a right biceps nerve injury.