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Aaron Judge 'frustrated' by injury, still targeting Opening Day for Yankees

Newsday's Yankees beat reporter Erik Boland discusses the latest injury update on Aaron Judge, as well as Judge's frustrations over the endless battery of testshe has undergone to diagnose the mysterious injury. Credit: Newsday / Erik Boland; Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.; Frank Franklin II

LAKELAND, Fla. — Aaron Judge isn’t ready to declare himself out for Opening Day, but the rightfielder is “frustrated” after undergoing an endless battery of tests for the better part of a week that have yet to yield an answer of any kind.

“It’s tough,” Judge said Thursday morning in his first comments in more than a week regarding the mysterious discomfort in his right shoulder and right pec area he’s been feeling for the last month.

“Pretty frustrated with it. I want to be out there with my team, supporting them, being out on the field, battling with them. That’s why we’re talking to a lot of doctors trying to get some answers.”

Judge has undergone extensive testing since the pain returned last Friday while he was taking batting practice indoors. He was shut down in early February because of right shoulder discomfort and the waters seemed to get muddied a bit last weekend when Aaron Boone said the soreness had “moved” to the pec area.

“It’s always been chest and shoulder, that’s what’s making it tough [to diagnose],” Judge said. “I’m trying to describe what I’m feeling but haven’t gotten a definite answer of what’s going on.”

Is it more prevalent in one of those areas?

“It’s a combination,” Judge said. “Because one day I’ll wake up and the chest is feeling good, the next day the shoulder is feeling bad. Next day, I’ll wake up, the shoulder is feeling good [and not the pec]. It’s just kind of back and forth right now.”

Judge, who hasn’t done intensive baseball activities of any kind since last Friday, said he is not ready to count himself out for the March 26 opener in Baltimore.

“You only need about 30 at-bats to get ready for the season. Still got plenty of time,” Judge said. “If I don’t get them here [in Grapefruit League games], I can get them on the back field [in live batting practice] or go across the street [to the minor-league complex] to get at-bats. We’ve just got to get answers first. That’s the biggest thing is, get answers and then we can talk about that.”

General manager Brian Cashman on Tuesday said of Judge being ready for the season opener: “As of right now . . . I don’t see him ready by Opening Day because of the time frame, 3 1⁄2 weeks [until the opener].”

All of which, considering how little Judge has done so far this spring training because of the injury, made perfect sense.

But Judge said Cashman told him later in the day Tuesday that he thought he was being asked about Giancarlo Stanton, who is out four to six weeks with a right calf strain, eliminating him from the opener.

“I think he was talking about Stanton when he said that,’’ Judge said. “I talked to him after and he clarified that, but the goal’s always to be ready for Opening Day.”

On an audio recording from Cashman’s meeting with reporters from Tuesday, the general manager clearly and specifically is asked about Judge and Opening Day and gave the above answer.

He was speaking with music blaring in the background, though, so it is conceivable that Cashman heard the question incorrectly.  

Regardless, the reality is that Judge remains in a holding pattern in his preparation for the season, and with each passing day with continued discomfort and without answers, that makes it more likely he’ll start the season on the injured list rather than in Baltimore.

“Look, first thing, we’ve got to get what it is, what we’re dealing with, what the prognosis is, what’s the course of action,” Boone said Thursday morning. “So I know we get wrapped up in Opening Day and is he going to be [ready]? I don’t know. I want to know what we’re dealing with and hopefully have a time frame in place that ‘OK, this is how long it’s going to be before he’s back doing anything.’ And then we’ll be able to better make those evaluations.”

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