SEATTLE – Finally, Aaron Judge’s right wrist is for the most part pain-free.
“This is kind of what we’ve been waiting for this whole time is for that pain to get out of there for him to really be able to swing,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Friday before the opener of a three-game series against the Mariners.
Friday afternoon marked another step forward for Judge in what has been a slower-than-expected recovery from the chip fracture in his right wrist that he suffered July 26 when he was hit by a fastball thrown by the Royals’ Jakob Junis.
For the first time in his rehab, Judge did some light hitting on the field Friday. Watched by hitting coach Marcus Thames and trainer Steve Donohue, Judge hit balls off a tee.
Then, in another first in his rehab, he hit some underhand tosses thrown by Thames, who was behind a protective net. Several of the balls landed in the seats.
Judge then adjourned to the outfield to shag fly balls as a handful of Yankees, including Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius, who was activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, took early batting practice.
“I think he’s starting to get at least a little bit excited about how he’s feeling when he’s swinging the bat,” Boone said. “The ball’s coming off real nice. Again, just positive steps for Aaron.”
Of the pain, Boone said: “He wouldn’t be doing this and bouncing back the way he [has] without it being out of there.”
The next step?
“He’ll hit in the cage off some live arms and stuff like that and then we’ll move outside and continue with the soft toss and tee work,” Boone said. “Then you start to talk about live pitching.”
Ever since giving an initial timeframe of three weeks for Judge’s return – which general manager Brian Cashman has acknowledged was “off considerably” – the Yankees have steered clear of offering a time line. Boone did not say when Judge will progress to any of the steps he mentioned, other than saying the process should move more quickly.
“Hopefully now the progression is one that moves now, now that he’s to this point to where he can kind of do everything,” Boone said. “Now it’s just a matter of getting back up to baseball speed, building that stamina, and then obviously graduating to live pitching and seeing an actual pitcher.”
With the minor league seasons all but done, there will be no rehab games for Judge, meaning the Yankees will have to get “creative,” Boone said, in getting him game-ready.
“We’ll do our best to get him to see some pitchers, however we have to do that,” Boone said. “He’s stood in on some bullpens just so he can get his eyes tracking and seeing pitches. With seasons wrapping up, it’s a little more of a challenge, but we feel like hopefully we’ll be able to get him enough reps to get him comfortable in the transition.”
Regardless of the still-murky timetable, it unquestionably has been a positive week for Judge, who had not had many of them since going on the DL.
It started Monday in Oakland when he started hitting balls off a tee, something he did Tuesday and Wednesday as well, increasing the intensity each day.
“That was a good sign. I really didn’t feel too much of anything,” Judge said Tuesday after taking 50 swings. “It’s still broken, so there is some soreness that comes with that, but for the most part, I’m feeling great.”