For the first time since July 26, Aaron Judge was active for the Yankees. The club hopes his bat will follow before too long.
In any case, his presence as an available player — even if only to pinch run or play the field — was seen as an emotional pick-me-up for Judge and the whole team Friday.
“He’s one of those special players, special people,” Aaron Boone said of Judge, who had been on the disabled list for seven weeks with a chip fracture of the right wrist. Judge ran out to rightfield as a defensive replacement in the top of the eighth inning Friday night and was greeted with a standing ovation, followed by a chorus of “Aar-on Ju-udge.”
“I was nervous standing out there on the field and I didn’t even catch the ball,’’ Judge said. “Getting those jitters out of the way was good.
“I was hoping we’d bat around so I could get an AB. I was excited to get back out there.”
Judge said of the fans’ reaction: “Pretty crazy. We’ve got the best fans in the world. It was great to hear their support. I think they were just cheering for that 10-0 ballgame. That performance by Tanaka tonight was amazing.”
The team is not ready to let Judge hit, Boone said, but is coming up with a timetable that will have Judge continue to take batting practice, then probably face live pitching in a simulated game before he bats in a game. In any case, the club is confident that Judge will get enough plate appearances to shake off every remnant of rust before the postseason.
In explaining why one of baseball’s most prominent sluggers would be placed back on the roster without being cleared to hit, Boone cited an effort to “help try and finish off his rehab a little bit and, if we can, speed up the process a little bit.”
“Right now, it’s just building up that stamina, building up the reps he’s able to do,” Boone said. “If anyone has watched him take BP, it’s pretty electric right now. It’s coming off [the bat] like Aaron Judge.”
Before Friday night’s game, Judge did hit numerous shots over the fence, many of them to right-centerfield.
Getting him back in the lineup figures to help Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, who were slumping during a trip that ended with the Yankees losing two of three against the lackluster Twins. On top of that, the thought was that having Judge in a uniform jersey and spikes would boost his spirits and those of his teammates.
Boone cited Judge’s presence, referring to “the impact he has with everyone in that room.”
“Being still a very young player, when Aaron speaks, people listen,” Boone said. “He’s an outstanding competitor, outstanding teammate and someone you always want around impacting other people.”
Chapman optimistic. The Yankees got another boost after seeing Aroldis Chapman play catch and do fielding drills. The closer, on the disabled list since Aug. 22 with left knee tendinitis, emphatically said he is optimistic about returning before the end of the regular season. “Overall, just in general, I feel fresh,” he said through a translator. “It’s a matter of following the process, getting some strength back.”