TAMPA, Fla. – Aaron Judge isn’t so close to returning to the field after all.
And Saturday’s news that the rightfielder had undergone additional testing because of continued discomfort in his right shoulder area leaves the Yankees with a nonexistent timeline for exactly when he will be ready to get going.
The tests, which included an MRI and were performed Saturday morning, have come back negative to this point. Another round of testing is slated for Monday.
“We’re just kind of in a holding pattern with it, just trying to kind of figure out what exactly is going on there,” Aaron Boone said.
And that uncertainty leaves open the question of whether Judge will be ready by the March 26 season opener in Baltimore.
“Time-wise, we’re still fine,” Boone said of a potential time crunch. “It’s just I don’t know what we’re dealing with here in the next several days. The bottom line is if he starts playing in games a week, 10 days out [before the start of the regular season], he’d be technically fine. But first things first is getting him to that point, and I don’t know when that is.”
Boone said he could not say whether he officially has been shut down.
“I’m not sure,” he said. “The first thing is we’re trying to get our arms around is if we can pinpoint something that’s causing some of the discomfort, but at this point we haven’t found that.”
Judge's indoor cage work started about 10 days ago, and by the end of last week, he was playing long toss out to 90 feet. That was extended to 120 feet and, with no complaints of soreness, the intensity of indoor batting practice increased Thursday and Friday.
“It was more when he went to hit [Friday],” Boone said of when the pain began again. “Throwing wasn’t an issue. It was more getting through his second day of cage BP yesterday. Just wasn’t quite right, so we backed him off.”
Boone said what Judge felt was a “similar feeling” to what caused him to be shut down the first time around.
How has Judge described the discomfort to him?
“Just kind of in his chest when he hits, he feels it down here, kind of under his pec,” Boone said.
It’s not clear if that’s where the pain has been all along or if it’s in a new spot.
The manager would not yet use the word “concern” in describing his feelings on the ever-deepening mystery.
“I’m a little frustrated for him just in not being able to get our arms around exactly what’s going on and why it’s been slow-moving,” Boone said. “That’s the biggest thing right now is just trying to get answers.”
By all accounts, Judge, 27, had a healthy offseason after being limited to 102 games last season (he appeared in 155 games during his breakout rookie season in 2017 and 112 games in 2018).
He had arrived in Tampa by the end of January, well ahead of most position players, to work out daily at the minor-league complex, including taking batting practice outside. But in early February, Judge began experiencing soreness in his right shoulder area and was shut down.
Recent weeks brought progress, and on Tuesday, Boone said the outfielder “likely” would be cleared to take full batting practice outdoors by week’s end. But he never got to that point.