Boone on Judge: 'He's good to go'

Slugger fully healed from right wrist injury; Yanks hoping Loaisiga continues to impress

February 17th, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- Watching pummel batting-practice fastballs at the Yankees' Minor League complex this week, two words came to Aaron Boone's mind: "Plus power."

Having witnessed his hulking right fielder deposit a boxload of baseballs beyond the fences at the facility, the Yankees' manager is confident that Judge has come all the way back from the fractured right wrist that cost him about seven weeks of last season.

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"Oh yeah, he's good to go," Boone said. "He's healthy. I think he's as healthy as he's been probably since he's been in the big leagues. He's in really good condition, and I know he's excited to get started."

Judge played 112 games for New York last season, hitting .278/.392/.528 with 27 homers and 67 RBIs. He sustained a chip fracture of the wrist on July 26 when he was hit by a pitch from the Royals' , and he did not return to the lineup until Sept. 18. Judge batted .421 (8-for-19) with a double, three homers and four RBIs in the Yankees' five postseason games.

"I think he had a really good offseason," Boone said. "I think he's so much further ahead of the game than he was last year when we kept him out and really slow-played him the first week or two of games, because he was still recovering from that [left] shoulder [surgery] and a lot of his winter was poured into the rehab of his shoulder.

"This year, it's been having a normal offseason and getting his body in excellent condition. When you talk to him, I think he's really excited where his shoulder is at right now, certainly compared to this time last year. The maintenance that he's had to do on it the last couple of years, I feel like in a lot of ways he's through that."

Though is envisioned to serve as the Yankees' regular leadoff hitter, Boone suggested that he could use Judge in that spot against a tough left-handed pitcher, something that he flirted with last spring. All 108 of Judge's regular-season starts came as the No. 2 hitter.

"You have a left-handed pitcher out there, and you want Judge and [Giancarlo] Stanton coming up as much as possible," Boone said. "I don't necessarily think it's likely, but it's one of those things you consider. I would say Hicks is the guy I envision the most in that spot, but we'll see also how camp unfolds. I've looked at it a little bit, but I haven't had a lot of conversations yet on the order."

Second helping

enjoyed glimpses of brilliance during his nine appearances (four starts) in the Majors last season, including a June 25 effort at Philadelphia in which the right-hander carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Boone said that the Yankees believe Loaisiga's delivery and pitch package suggest that he can be an effective starter at the big league level.

"There's no denying the ceiling," Boone said. "I really feel confident that he's going to help us this year, and I think he can be a really good pitcher in this league. I think he flashed that to us last year. I think the question for him is going to be, can we continue to build up his workload and really keep him healthy full time? His talent and the pitch mix is real."

Comeback trail

(Tommy John surgery on right elbow) will continue to participate in defensive drills when position players have their first workout on Tuesday, with Gregorius taking grounders and throwing. By early March, Gregorius hopes to be cleared to begin a hitting program, which would begin with dry (non-contact) swings and tee work.

Bombers bits

• Several pitchers threw live batting practice at the Minor League complex on Sunday morning, with , , , , , , Joe Harvey, and birthday boy Stephen Tarpley taking the hill.

• Bullpen sessions at the Steinbrenner Field complex were headlined by throwing to , plus , , and Trevor Stephan. Boone said that Sanchez (left shoulder surgery) received a scheduled day off from hitting.

• Yankees position players are scheduled to report to camp on Monday.