TAMPA, Fla. — Aaron Judge and Kyle Higashioka indeed went through the workouts on Monday that the Yankees had said they would.
Just not at the location the club had said it would happen.
Whether it was intentional subterfuge with the intent of keeping away prying media eyes or simply not wanting the players at the minor-league complex the same day a rookie league game was to start at noon, the late-morning workout instead took place on one of the back fields at George M. Steinbrenner Field (and nonetheless was observed from a distance by Newsday).
Judge and Higashioka have been on the COVID-19 injured list since July 16, right around when the Yankees had their second COVID outbreak of the season and six players landed on the list.
Aaron Boone indicated in Boston during the weekend that the pair will be ready to rejoin the Yankees at some point during the three-game series against the Rays that starts Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
"I don't know about Tuesday," Boone said over the weekend. "We just have to see what we're dealing with. I know Monday will be a big day for him and Higgy as they go through their cardiac screening and things like that; they'll have a good day of work at the [minor-league] complex [in Tampa]. So we'll just see where we're at coming out of Monday and how much we feel like they need before getting in a game."
Judge and Higashioka were joined at Steinbrenner Field on Monday by Luke Voit, on the injured list since July 13 with left knee inflammation. Voit also took batting practice in the steamy 93-degree heat.
Assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere worked the pitching machine during BP, and the sessions were observed by Boone, hitting coach Marcus Thames, director of medical services Steve Donohue and director of sports medicine and rehabilitation Michael Schuk.
After BP, first base/outfield coach Reggie Willits went through fielding drills with Judge, who did not seem to be experiencing any ill effects of the illness, whether at the plate or in the field. Higashioka also appeared to come through his BP with no issues, as did Voit, whose timeline is not clear.
The Yankees recently had six players on the COVID-19 IL, with Gio Urshela, Nestor Cortes Jr., Jonathan Loaisiga and Wandy Peralta joining Judge and Higashioka.
Urshela, Cortes and Loaisiga rejoined the Yankees in Boston and played in the Red Sox series. Peralta, currently working out in New York, likely will need at least a couple of rehab outings after he’s cleared.
Yankees make deal
The Yankees announced Monday that they have acquired righthanded reliever Clay Holmes from the Pirates in exchange for infielders Diego Castillo and Hoy Park. Holmes, 28, a ninth-round pick of the Pirates in 2011 who throws a sinker the Yankees like, has a 4.93 ERA in 44 games this season, with 44 strikeouts and 25 walks in 42 innings. The Yankees returned catcher Rob Brantly to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Clarke Schmidt, mostly forgotten since going down in early February with a right elbow strain after entering spring training as a dark-horse candidate to grab one of the open rotation spots, started a rehab assignment Monday afternoon with the FCL Yankees against the Tigers’ FCL team at the Yankees' minor-league complex. Schmidt, the Yankees’ first-round pick (taken 16th overall) in 2017, struck out three and allowed a hit in three scoreless innings.
"Checked a lot of boxes," one talent evaluator said, noting that Schmidt’s fastball sat in the range of 92-95 mph. "Two-seamer had a lot of sink [and he] spun some good breaking balls. Looked better than I thought he would."
Among the teams represented by scouts at the minor-league complex for Monday’s FCL game were the Diamondbacks, Padres, Tigers and Rays.