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Aaron Judge back in Yankees' lineup after missing two games with soreness in his left side

Yankees' Aaron Judge lines a single off Tampa

Yankees' Aaron Judge lines a single off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jeffrey Springs during the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, April 10, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla.  Credit: AP/Chris O'Meara

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All good with Aaron Judge.

But the Yankees, not to mention their fans — always on the edge of their seats when it comes to injuries, those to Judge in particular — will be monitoring.

Judge, held out two straight games because of mysterious "soreness" in his left side that was never specified as anything more than that by the Yankees, returned to the lineup Saturday afternoon against the Rays.

He played rightfield, batted second and went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

 

What told Boone that Judge was set to return? "Him," Boone said. "He wanted to play [Friday]."

Boone said that because Judge had done no more than get treatment on Thursday, an off day, he wanted him to go through a full pregame routine, including batting practice, to make sure he was in the clear.

"I just wanted to hold him out coming off the off day another day," Boone said. "In speaking to him this morning, he felt ready to go, so excited to write his name back in a lineup."

It is never that simple with Judge, though. After playing 155 games in his AL Rookie of the Year season of 2017, injuries limited him to 112 games in 2018, 102 games in 2019 and 28 games in the COVID-19-shortened 60-game 2020 season.

"As best we can, we try and stay on top of these things," Boone said. "So we'll certainly be monitoring how he's doing and how he's moving, how he's looking, and listening to his feedback and everything and making sure we put him in the best possible position to go out there healthy."

Boone said he was not aware of anything specific that caused the soreness.

"I think it was just the gradual workload," he said, though given that this occurred as early as it did, that hardly is a reassuring statement. "Probably swinging a lot, doing a lot of cage work and things like that just kind of led to some soreness that he developed over time. But I don't think there was any one thing."

Boone said Judge overworking himself off the field, whether it be in the batting cage or wherever, is not a concern.

"I think he’s been a little more judicious about some of the amounts of the swings and amount of reps that [he takes]," Boone said. "It's been something he's been on top of, but something that is a focus for us, sometimes not working more but working smarter and more efficiently and better. It's something we've talked with him about but, frankly, with all of our guys."

Odor activated; Wade down

Infielder Rougned Odor, acquired via trade from the Rangers this past week, officially cleared COVID-19 intake protocols Saturday morning and was activated. That was bad news for utilityman Tyler Wade, who was optioned to the alternate site.

Though primarily a second baseman in his career, the lefthanded-hitting Odor — who strikes out a lot but hit at least 30 homers in three of the last four full MLB seasons — played a lot of third, to mostly positive reviews, in spring training.

"There'll be days, whether I give [Jay] Bruce a day off, I give DJ [LeMahieu] at some point a day off, Gleyber [Torres], Gio [Urshela], any time they're down, he's the guy that we’ll plug in," Boone said. "He played a lot of third in spring training. Obviously, he's a second baseman throughout his career. Whenever one of those guys has a day off, Rougned will be the guy that plugs in for them [at second or third]."

Boone said after Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Rays that there’s a "decent chance" Odor will make his Yankees debut Sunday.

With Wade sent down, Boone said he would be comfortable playing Urshela at shortstop on days when Torres rests. Urshela played a little — very little — shortstop during spring training.

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