'A big relief': Judge OK after HBP on hand in Yankees' win

June 19th, 2024

NEW YORK -- The Yankees were holding their breath about the health of on Tuesday night. But they finally got a huge piece of good news.

Judge had to exit the game in the fourth inning of New York's series-opening 4-2 win against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, an inning after he was hit by a pitch on the left hand. But X-rays and a CT scan on Judge's hand taken after the game came back clean. No fracture.

"It's a big relief," Judge said. "Just, being hit there before a couple of years ago and breaking my wrist, you never know what's going to happen. So finding out that it's not fractured, not broken, is definitely a sigh of relief."

Judge received the good news from team doctors after being sent to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for imaging and an evaluation by Yankees head team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad.

The Yankees' captain took a 94 mph fastball from Albert Suárez off the bottom of his left hand in the third inning. The Bronx Bombers took the first game of the showdown between the top two teams in the American League East, but the status of their superstar slugger temporarily cast a shadow over a big win.

"Anytime you get hit by 94, 95 up and in like that, especially in the hand, where there's so many small bones and ligaments, you just never know what's going to happen or what it's going to be," Judge said.

Judge, who's leading the Majors with 26 home runs, 64 RBIs, a .687 slugging percentage and a 1.115 OPS, said he hopes he won't have to miss time. He's still experiencing some swelling in his hand and pinkie, where he was hit, but he can grip a bat.

Judge initially stayed in the game after the hit by pitch, running the bases and returning to play center field in the top of the fourth. But he was pinch-hit for by Trent Grisham in the bottom of the fourth, and Grisham also took over in center.

When he was hit, Judge looked to be in immediate pain, dropping his bat, clutching his hand and grimacing as he spun out of the batter's box, taking a few steps toward the pitcher's mound. He then took a slow, circuitous route through the right side of the infield and back around to first base, where he was examined by the Yankees' training staff.

"I was definitely pissed," Judge said. "There were a couple of balls up and in. But that's part of it. They like to throw in."

After a lengthy conversation, Judge remained in the game, eventually coming around to score on a Giancarlo Stanton RBI single that gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead. But after returning to the dugout, he went straight down the tunnel toward the Yankees' clubhouse.

Judge emerged from the tunnel a short while later, grabbing his glove and jogging back out to the outfield when the Yankees took the field in the top of the fourth. He played the whole inning on defense, but with Judge’s turn at-bat coming up three batters into the bottom of the inning, Grisham emerged in the on-deck circle in his place.

"I wanted to hit," Judge said. "I was down in the cage, trying to swing, but I really couldn't at the time."

Manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees taking Judge out at that point was due to a "precaution."

"We just wanted to make sure to get it looked at and see what we were dealing with," Boone said.

Boone was driving to Yankee Stadium when the incident happened -- he was attending his son's high school graduation earlier Tuesday, with bench coach Brad Ausmus subbing in on manager duties until Boone arrived at the ballpark during the game. Boone happened to be on the phone with general manager Brian Cashman, and it was Cashman who described to Boone what was happening on the field.

Judge's injury scare came on the same day Anthony Rizzo was placed on the injured list with a fractured right forearm, suffered during a collision running through at first base during the Yankees' series finale against the Red Sox on Sunday, which will keep him out for approximately two months. It also came just two days after Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts fractured his left hand on a nearly identical hit by pitch. Betts is now facing a six- to eight-week absence.

"It's tough. It's a tough moment in the game," Juan Soto said. "We all know that they didn't try to hit Judge right there, but it's a little frustrating. It's a little uncomfortable."

And Judge wasn't even the only Yankee to get hit on the hand during the game. Gleyber Torres was hit in a similar spot by another 94 mph fastball from O's reliever Keegan Akin in the fifth inning. Torres, who wears a guard over his hand when he bats, stayed in and finished the game, but he also took some time to shake off the hit by pitch.

The Yankees, seeing two of their players get plunked in the span of three innings, weren't happy. There was some jawing from the Yankees' dugout, particularly from Alex Verdugo.

"At the end of the day, we don't take what happened lightly," Verdugo said. "These are our guys. And obviously [our] captain, it's a big one for us, so none of us are too pleased about it. But at the same time, I don't believe it was intentional. A couple of pitches got away from their guys."

The inning after Torres was hit, Yankees starter Nestor Cortes brushed back Orioles star Gunnar Henderson with an up-and-in fastball. But Cortes said that was "strictly pitching," not related to Judge and Torres getting hit.

And both the Yankees and Orioles didn't seem to think anything would carry over into the rest of the series.

"Just a competitive pitch. I didn’t really think anything of it," Henderson said of the pitch that hit Judge. "Obviously, you don't want to see that. He's an unreal hitter, so you've got to make difficult pitches, and it just kind of, unfortunately, went up and in."

"Not really looking [out] for anything," Judge said. "I was more pissed in the moment for myself. Like, nobody wants to get hit. We're trying to go out there and compete and do our thing. Stuff like that happens."

"I wouldn't say I would expect anything to roll over," Verdugo said. "But I do expect that there's gonna be a little bit more edge."