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Pain-free Judge 'close to locking it in'

@BryanHoch
September 23, 2020

Considering that Aaron Judge's first attempt at returning from the injured list lasted only six innings, the Yankees have been conservative with the outfielder's return to action, but manager Aaron Boone said he is "encouraged" by his progress. Tuesday marked Judge's fifth game since returning from a right calf strain

Considering that Aaron Judge's first attempt at returning from the injured list lasted only six innings, the Yankees have been conservative with the outfielder's return to action, but manager Aaron Boone said he is "encouraged" by his progress.

Tuesday marked Judge's fifth game since returning from a right calf strain initially sustained on Aug. 11 and aggravated on Aug. 26. The slugger went 3-for-5 in the Yankees' 12-1 win over the Blue Jays, and Boone said that based upon what he has seen thus far, there is no doubt that both Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will be ready to play in every postseason game.

"It's good to see him moving so well," Boone said prior to Tuesday's game. "For him, it's just racking up those at-bats and really locking in. He's gotten to a lot of deep counts, a couple of balls that he's had a chance to do something with. As he sees more pitches, he's close to locking it in."

Through his first four games, Judge collected two hits in 17 at-bats (.118), walking twice with seven strikeouts. Judge said after Monday's game that he has had "no issues" with the calf on either side of the ball.

"I've been able to run around pain-free, no problem," Judge said. "I'm feeling good in the box. It's going to take four or five games for me to get the timing back. I didn't have a chance to get a lot of live at-bats like Scranton or playing in Triple-A right now, so I'm getting back slowly but surely."

Judge is headed to the postseason for the fourth time in his four full seasons, an accomplishment that he said is not one to be taken for granted.

"There's a lot of guys out there, Hall of Famers, that never got the chance to play in the postseason or fight for a title," Judge said. "You want to celebrate those moments, but the job's not finished. There's a lot of work ahead of us. We're still focused on bringing it back home, so that's going to be our mindset going down the stretch."

Home sweet home
The Yankees have won 21 of 28 games at Yankee Stadium, contrasted with 10 of 26 away from the Bronx entering play on Tuesday, which will continue to factor into Boone's decision-making through the end of the regular season.

New York entered play on Tuesday trailing the Twins by 1 1/2 games for the fourth playoff seed, which will host Wild Card Series games at its home ballpark. Boone said that he has been trying to strike a balance between winning each game and preparing for the playoffs.

"You've got to line up your pitching to a degree," Boone said. "The most important thing is that we're healthy. We want to try and win out here and put ourselves in a position to play at home. That said, if we're going to be champs, we're going to have to win a lot of games away from home."

Making moves
The Yankees have added left-hander Tyler Lyons to their bullpen mix, signing the veteran to a Major League contract and selecting him to the active roster on Tuesday. The 32-year-old posted a 4.15 ERA in 11 appearances for New York last season after beginning his year with the Pirates.

Right-hander Michael King was optioned to the alternate training site, one day after permitting five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings to the Blue Jays. The Yankees also announced that right-hander Ben Heller has been placed on the 60-day injured list with a right biceps nerve injury.

This date in Yankees history
Sept. 22, 1946: Yogi Berra made his Major League debut, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Yankees' 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics, the first game of a doubleheader. The Hall of Famer would pass away on the same date in 2015.

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