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Judge returns to play defense; can't hit yet

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- The roar swelled from the right-field grandstands when Aaron Judge ascended the dugout steps late on Friday evening, chomping on bubblegum as his 6-foot-7 frame lumbered toward the slugger's first assignment of defensive duty in seven weeks and a day.

As Judge acknowledged the robed customers in his Chambers and handed a ball off to the front row, the ovation spread throughout all of Yankee Stadium. No balls were hit near Judge during the final two innings of an 11-0 Yankees rout over the Blue Jays, but it still felt like an important occasion.

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NEW YORK -- The roar swelled from the right-field grandstands when Aaron Judge ascended the dugout steps late on Friday evening, chomping on bubblegum as his 6-foot-7 frame lumbered toward the slugger's first assignment of defensive duty in seven weeks and a day.

As Judge acknowledged the robed customers in his Chambers and handed a ball off to the front row, the ovation spread throughout all of Yankee Stadium. No balls were hit near Judge during the final two innings of an 11-0 Yankees rout over the Blue Jays, but it still felt like an important occasion.

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Video: TOR@NYY: Judge, Boone on the outfielder's return

"Big time," Judge said. "Anytime I can get back on the field. I was nervous out there just standing in the outfield. I didn't even catch any balls. Just getting those jitters out of the way now it's good. When I get that first at-bat again, it'll be like I never left."

The Yankees activated Judge from the 10-day disabled list prior to Friday's game, though manager Aaron Boone said that Judge will not yet be permitted to bat in games. For the time being, Judge will continue his rehab from a right wrist fracture by seeing action as a pinch-runner or a defensive replacement.

Judge salutes fans, throws souvenirs in RF return

"If we can knock off a little bit of the rust with a baserunning situation or to get out in the field for a couple of innings, I think there's value in it," Boone said.

Judge assumed Aaron Hicks' place in the batting order while Brett Gardner moved from left field to center field. Andrew McCutchen moved from right to left field, marking his first career appearance at the position, and said he had marveled at getting to see Judge in action.

"I finally got to watch him and [Giancarlo] Stanton take batting practice," McCutchen said. "I saw some pretty impressive stuff. I know people who have been here all year, to them, it's probably normal. It's not normal. It was awesome."

Tweet from @Yankees: Welcome back, @TheJudge44 pic.twitter.com/fz3AeWCIiH

Judge may be crushing batting practice moonshots, but he has acknowledged that there continues to be discomfort in the wrist.

"It's still healing," Judge said. "It takes a while for the bone to heal. Once that heals, that'll be probably the offseason by the time it starts feeling 100 percent."

Video: Boone discusses Judge being activated from DL

Judge will continue to take batting practice over the weekend, and Boone said that Judge could be a full player by the end of the homestand. A trip to face pitching at the Yankees' Player Development complex in Tampa, Fla., is a strong possibility.

"I think once I start seeing some live pitching, no matter where it's at, I think that'll get me going," Judge said.

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 he made several one-hop throws to third base and home plate from right field on Wednesday afternoon. Those workouts in near-empty facilities didn't hold a candle to what Judge experienced on Friday.

"They turn Yankee Stadium alive; it's amazing what those fans do," Judge said. "We saw what they did in the playoffs last year. I was excited to be back out there with them and get ready for these last couple of games before the playoffs."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge