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But the spotlight is just about as bright as ever. All of the focus seems to be on Judge’s health as the Bronx Bombers enter a shortened 2020 season as one of the favorites to win the World Series.
The 28-year-old’s status was something of a question mark earlier this year. Judge was diagnosed with a fractured right rib at the beginning of March, an injury believes originated last September.
While Judge would not undergo immediate surgery, that option seemed to loom large in the recovery process. There were reports about his progress, with general manager Brian Cashman saying in May he did not expect the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year to be ready to go until “summer time.”
Vagueness was abundant when it came to assessing Judge’s rehab. It was something of an unknown whether he was even taking cuts in the cage.
However, there has been more clarity with respect to Judge’s readiness recently. Lindsey Adler of The Athletic wrote about New York’s 2020 player pool on Monday, noting Judge is “reportedly swinging a bat.” Additionally, Erik Boland of Newsday previously spoke with a source who claimed to have witnessed Judge working tee drills while still at the team facility in Florida.
Judge himself shed some light on his recovery during an interview with Sports Illustrated (h/t Hoch):
“This break has allowed some of the players, including myself, to get healthy. Luckily, I’ve been able to go into our facility in Tampa Bay with five or six teammates to work out, get on the field and run around, and hit a little bit. For us, it’s kind of been business as usual and has felt like an extended Spring Training.”
Yankees fans can only hope their superstar is in fact ready to go by late July.
The 60-game season will not allow for much wiggle room. One bad losing streak or setback could put even the most talented of teams in a compromised position. The Yankees were able to overcome their injuries over the course of a full 162-game season in 2019, but it might be that much harder if their roster looks like the “walking wounded” once again in 2020.
Not to mention, Judge is one of the best two-way players in baseball. The Californian hit 27 homers and posted a .921 OPS in just 102 games last season. Judge also shined in the outfield, ranking fifth among all outfielders (min. 750 innings) with 20 defensive runs saved, per FanGraphs. He ranked third in ultimate zone rating.
The Yankees figure to let Giancarlo Stanton get some at-bats in the designated hitter spot, given he has also been banged up these past several months. But manager Aaron Boone might also elect to use Judge as a DH every now and then if there are still concerns about his rib. Regardless, they will want to find ways to get Judge into the lineup.
All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, unless otherwise noted.