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Judge 'right on schedule' in shoulder rehab

Boone not bothered that slugger may miss early Grapefruit League games
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- Aaron Judge said that he is "right on schedule" with his rehab from arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, and though the slugger anticipates missing some of the earliest Grapefruit League games, he is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

"It feels good," Judge said. "The games that matter are in April, so if I miss a couple of games -- which I will probably early in the spring -- it's better to miss those games than to miss games starting at the end of March or early April. We're on the right track."

TAMPA, Fla. -- Aaron Judge said that he is "right on schedule" with his rehab from arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder, and though the slugger anticipates missing some of the earliest Grapefruit League games, he is expected to be ready for Opening Day.

"It feels good," Judge said. "The games that matter are in April, so if I miss a couple of games -- which I will probably early in the spring -- it's better to miss those games than to miss games starting at the end of March or early April. We're on the right track."

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In late November, Judge traveled to Los Angeles, where Dr. Neal ElAttrache executed a loose-body removal and cartilage cleanup. As a rehabbing player, Judge has been working out at George M. Steinbrenner Field and said he should return to full on-field batting practice next week.

"It's just a matter of wanting to take it slow," manager Aaron Boone said. "I don't need him getting three at-bats on Feb. 20-whatever. We'll just be smart in how we go about it. There's time to where he can get those regular at-bats to be in a place where we need him to be when we break camp at the end of next month."

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Though Judge said it was difficult to pinpoint an exact date of the injury, he revealed that the shoulder was bothering him around the All-Star break, raising the possibility that it could have been affected or exacerbated by his winning performance at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

"It came down to, 'Can you play?' I could play," Judge said. "July, August, everyone is going through something. No one is 100 percent. You can ask everybody in that clubhouse, they were kind of banged up. If I was able to play, I was going to go out there and be ready for my team."

From July 8 through Aug. 20, Judge struck out at least once in 37 consecutive games, setting a Major League record. He batted .176/.335/.351 over that span, and though a cortisone shot was discussed, Judge said one was never administered. He rebounded to produce a terrific .311/.463/.889 slash line in 27 September games.

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"I don't like making excuses, so I never want to blame a shoulder or a knee or any injury," Judge said. "I don't like making excuses because like I said, I could go out there and play. If I'm willing and able and my body is able to play, it's all on me. It's not on the shoulder or the nagging injury. It's on me. I wouldn't really say the shoulder had a lot to do with it."

Power of positive thinking
Masahiro Tanaka's spring goal is to pick up where he left off last season, when he spun an 0.90 ERA in 20 postseason innings against the Indians and Astros. He attributed some of his earlier issues to his mental approach, which he said took him "off balance" for the first part of the season.

"I think when things were not going my way, I really wasn't able to get out from that frustration," Tanaka said through an interpreter. "I think my mind was geared a little bit more toward negativity. I think that was pretty much the problem, but I kept on grinding and fighting through it, trying to change that negative into more positive."

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First day vibes
Boone spent a good portion of his first workout as manager trailing the Yankees' pitchers, mentioning Tanaka, Dellin Betances and Justus Sheffield among the bullpen performances he watched. In particular, Boone said he thought Tanaka looked sharp.

"It was exciting for me," Boone said. "We've been working towards this day, so there is an excitement level. Not just for me, but the coaches and players to finally get out here and know that the clock on the season kind of started today. I thought all in all, we had a good first day."

He said it
"We're the New York Yankees. We're expected to win every game. We're expecting to be great." -- Judge

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

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka