Some additional clarity was provided Friday about the mysterious shoulder and chest pain Aaron Judge experienced in early February that essentially shut down his spring training.
Judge told a group of reporters in Tampa outside Steinbrenner Field that his pneumothorax (a collapsed lung), which was not previously disclosed publicly, is gone, allowing him to fly if he desires. He also said a CT scan, taken earlier in the day Friday, showed the right rib stress fracture that he was diagnosed with March 6 had shown “slight improvement.”
“The pneumothorax came back completely gone, which is a good thing. I can fly if I needed to go home,” Judge said, according to The Associated Press. “The bone is still about the same. Slight improvement, but in two weeks they can’t really tell much of anything. The bone is healing the way it should be, so probably another test here in a couple more weeks and go from there.”
Exactly two weeks earlier, the first domino fell — the diagnosis of the stress fracture of the first right rib that solved much of what had been a riddle for more than a month.
Before that, it had been a mystery — to Judge and the Yankees — as to why the outfielder had been experiencing consistent discomfort in his right shoulder and pectoral area.
At the time, manager Aaron Boone said surgery wasn’t “off the table.” Judge's statement Friday that the bone “is about the same” would seem to suggest that surgery still can’t be 100% eliminated as a possibility, but the fact that there has been at least some improvement provides additional hope that it can be avoided.
Judge is among the handful of Yankees players who have remained in Tampa to work out regularly at Steinbrenner Field during the coronavirus pandemic that officially canceled spring training March 13. On that morning, players on the Yankees' 40-man roster unanimously voted to stay in Tampa to hold informal workouts, but in the next 48 hours, as the crisis quickly deepened, most of the players who did not live locally began to leave town en masse.
More and more inside the industry are starting to believe the sport will be lucky to start its regular season in late June at the earliest, and even that is speculation. Not that it needs to be said, but no one knows.
“That’s the silver lining in all of this, having the ability to not feel rushed trying to get back for a certain date,” Judge said. “We don’t really have a date right now. I’m just trying to let it heal. Not trying to rush it.''
In early March, Judge traced the injury to the fifth inning of a game against the Angels last Sept. 18, when he jammed the shoulder on an unsuccessful diving attempt to catch a sinking liner. He finished the game but missed the next night. Judge missed only the one game — an MRI on the shoulder came back clean — and played the rest of the regular season and every postseason game, though with constant discomfort.
“Going into the postseason, I didn’t want to miss that, so it was kind of, get a shot and let’s get rolling basically,” Judge said on March 6.
After the season, Judge had more tests on his neck and shoulder areas that came back clean. He was tested in those areas, not the rib area, because Judge said most of the pain emanated from the neck and shoulder.
“You give them the symptoms, tell them what’s wrong and they work off of what you say," he said then.
After the season, Judge took little time off before beginning his offseason work.
“I think the consistent swinging and weightlifting throughout the whole offseason really didn’t give it the chance to [heal],” Judge said on March 6.
He, and the rest of the sport, at the moment now have nothing but time.