The Yankees' Juan Soto celebrates in the dugout after scoring...

The Yankees' Juan Soto celebrates in the dugout after scoring on a single by Alex Verdugo during the first inning of a game against the Royals on Monday in Kansas City, Mo. Credit: AP/Charlie Riedel

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Juan Soto returned to the Yankees’ lineup on the same day Aaron Judge received his first day off this season.

Before the start of a four-game series against the resurgent Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Monday night, manager Aaron Boone said Judge, the sport’s hottest hitter for well over a month, was healthy.

“Just a night off,” Boone said. “I’ve kind of been marking this one down. Obviously, he’s been playing out of this world, but having played every day, you get to this time of the year and you’re a little bit beat up too, so I think it’s important to give him the day, especially after getting in at three in the morning after hosting the Dodgers on Sunday Night Baseball].”

With Judge not starting and Soto serving as the designated hitter, the Yankees’ starting outfield featured Alex Verdugo in left, Trent Grisham in center and Jahmai Jones in right.

Grisham entered Monday hitting .100 with three homers and nine RBIs in just 25 games. His three-run homer in the sixth inning on Sunday night, coming after many in the crowd at Yankee Stadium were chanting “We want Soto,” helped propel the Yankees to a 6-4 victory over Los Angeles.

Jones, who came into Monday hitting .222 with one homer, has played even fewer games than Grisham. Monday marked just his 16th game and third start of the season.

Judge, who went 10-for-20 with three homers, three doubles, a triple, seven walks, eight runs, a stolen base, a 1.200 slugging percentage, a .630 on-base percentage and 12 RBIs in six games last week, was named the American League Player of the Week. He had homered in seven of his last 10 games.

In his previous 32 games before Monday’s rest day, Judge had slashed .418/.542/1.055 with 18 homers, 40 RBIs and a 1.597 OPS.

The scorching stretch has made Judge’s slow start — a .197 average with a .725 OPS on May 2 — a distant memory. The 2022 AL MVP entered the week hitting .305 with 24 homers, 55 walks, 59 RBIs and a 1.139 OPS through 67 games.

“I never like him out of the lineup, of course,” Boone said with a smile. “So from that standpoint, it’s like, ‘Ugh.’ But I feel like he needs a day.”

Soto, who left Thursday night’s game against the Twins after a rain delay with left forearm inflammation, returned after missing the entire Dodgers series this past weekend.

Boone said the reason to DH Soto was also related to the club’s early-morning arrival in Kansas City after the roughly three-hour flight.

“With us getting in kind of in the middle of the night and stuff,” Boone said. “This is just kind of a way of easing him in.”

Still, Boone didn’t guarantee Soto would be back in on defense Tuesday or even Wednesday.

“We’ve just kind of been basing it on how he’s coming in each day, where the improvements are, how he’s feeling,” Boone said. “So hopefully this will kind of get him in [the lineup] and we get him back in the outfield hopefully in this series.”

Soto, 25, missing three games was noteworthy for multiple reasons. Even with Judge’s recent performance, Soto has been the Yankees’ most consistent offensive performer this season. He came into Monday hitting .318 with 17 homers, 46 walks, 53 RBIs and a 1.027 OPS.

The three-time All-Star also isn’t used to sitting (and doesn’t like to). Soto played all 162 games last season for the Padres.

“It’s tough to see the game from the bench and I don’t like that,” he told reporters after Friday’s loss to the Dodgers. “So I try my best to be out there and help the team.”

But Soto did understand why the Yankees were playing it cautious with him.

“I don’t think I have to be grinding through it the whole year if we do the right thing and we do it the right way,” he said. “Definitely, if we didn’t know what was going on in my elbow, then maybe we’d definitely be grinding through the whole year. But now we know what it is, we can treat it and do the right thing to get it going. I think I’ll be fine.”

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