Aaron Judge has spent the past several days mashing impressive home runs in batting practice, and now the Yankees slugger is one step closer to an at-bat in a Major League game.
The Yankees activated Judge from the 10-day disabled list prior to Friday's game against the Blue Jays, though manager Aaron Boone said that Judge will not yet be used as a hitter. Judge will continue his rehab from a right wrist fracture as a pinch-runner or a defensive replacement.
"We feel like with the roster expansion, it makes some sense to have him available if there's a spot where we can get him in to run the bases or play some defense. He's certainly ready to do that."
Boone said that Judge will continue to take batting practice over the weekend while the team finalizes its plan to have Judge face live pitching, something he has not done since his July 26 injury. A trip to the Yankees' Player Development complex in Tampa, Fla., is a strong possibility.
"He's doing great. He'll be hitting in Group 2 today and we'll continue to ramp up from a hitting standpoint this weekend. We've got a plan in place over the next few days that we'll activate as we get closer, too. He's getting real close to being an option for us."
The Yankees opted to activate the runner-up for the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player Award rather than have him complete a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the International League playoffs.
New York's initial timetable for Judge's return was that he would be facing pitchers in games after three weeks; Thursday's off-day marked the seven-week point, and Boone said that Judge would probably not be available to pinch-hit before he sees live pitching.
"I don't want to speculate too much, but we're probably a couple of days away from making a decision about exactly what we're going to do about trying to get him some simulated at-bats and whatnot. As we get closer to that and as that becomes definitive, we'll let you know."
Judge was hitting .285/.398/.548 with 26 homers at the time of the injury, which he sustained on a hit-by-pitch from the Royals' Jakob Junis. Judge took on-field batting practice all three days during the Yankees' visit to Target Field, and made several one-hop throws to third base and home plate from right field on Wednesday afternoon.
"He's an outstanding competitor, an outstanding teammate. He's someone that you always want around impacting other people. I just told him tonight, I'm excited that he's going to have to have a jersey on and spikes on the bench. Hopefully he can impact us a little bit more even."