NEW YORK — All-Star outfielder Aaron Judge is one of many Yankees who have benefited from this 3½-month hiatus, declaring himself “game ready” after the first instrasquad game at Yankee Stadium on Monday night.
Major League Baseball’s shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic has allowed many Yankees to heal, Judge in particular. He was limited in the spring because of a stress fracture to his first right rib, and a subsequent punctured lung. Judge attributed the injury to an attempted diving catch in right field Sept. 18 against the Angels in the Bronx.
“I’m game-ready. Like I told you guys in spring training, I was going to be ready for Opening Day,” said Judge, with a smile, at the end of a scrimmage where he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout. He batted second in a lineup that played against the “Bombers,” a squad mostly composed of bench players and minor leaguers. “I’m feeling good. The biggest thing now is just getting the reps in because I missed so many at-bats in spring training. I didn’t get all the reps in the outfield, reps on the bases. Right now, it’s just about getting my timing back in the game and just getting my game reps in and go out there for 60 games.”
Judge, 28, added: “It feels good to be back on the field. I kept inching, trying to push them on the regimen a little bit on what we could do because my body was feeling great. I know we had a limited time to get ready for the season because we never knew when it was going to start.”
Regarding the increasing number of players who have opted out, Judge said there was “never a doubt in my mind” when asked about playing this abbreviated season.
“There’s obviously a risk, of anything,” he said. “Just walking outside there’s a risk. Leaving your apartment there’s a risk. There’s risk everywhere, but I love this game and I love the team that we’ve got here and the opportunity we have here.”
Judge also addressed the protocols contained in the 2020 Operations Manual, an extensive document detailing rules and regulations that intend to protect the health and safety of players and team employees.
“That’s what we talked about as a team and with each other, hammering being accountable for each other,” Judge said. “Watching out for each other. Making sure you’re washing your hands, making sure you wear your mask, making sure you’re doing the things so that everybody stays healthy and stays on the field.”
The Yankees were scheduled to open in Baltimore in March with many important players out with injuries (they placed a major league record 30 players on the injured list 39 times last season). But with the delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the team had a chance to get back most of its injured players for the rescheduled Opening Day, July 23 at the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals.
Giancarlo Stanton, who strained his right calf in the spring after playing in only 18 games last season due to lower body injuries, also benefited from the time off. The Yankees hope he’ll be the designated hitter on Opening Day.
“It’s been pretty recent, [my calf] feeling 100 percent,” said Stanton, who hopes to eventually play the outfield. “We’re going to go through camp, make sure that the schedule lines up to be ready to DH and go from there. With the season being so short, this is really a one-stop shop of getting it right. I think we have a good schedule down and a good formula to get it right.”
The Yankees will hold another intrasquad scrimmage Tuesday night, with $324 million right-hander Gerrit Cole starting and scheduled to throw four innings.