NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a right calf strain, Yankees manager Aaron Boone announced prior to Friday’s game against the Red Sox.
Boone said that an MRI taken during Thursday’s off-day revealed what the manager characterized as a “very mild” strain, saying that he is hopeful that it will be “a pretty short stint” on the IL.
Judge’s IL assignment is retroactive to Wednesday, meaning that the earliest he could be activated would be Aug. 21 against the Mets at Citi Field.
“He wants to be out there and feels like it's a day-to-day thing, which it very well may be,” Boone said. “It goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us. I think it's really important that he not go out there and hurt this thing significantly trying to play through something.”
Judge was removed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Braves after hitting his Major League-leading ninth home run, and he did not play in the series finale on Wednesday.
At the time, Boone said that Judge was dealing with tightness in his lower body as a result of playing four games on artificial turf this past weekend at Tropicana Field. Boone expanded upon that statement on Friday, saying that he thought Judge was moving gingerly in the outfield on Tuesday against Atlanta.
“When I took him out, it was basically my observation,” Boone said. “I didn't consult with any trainers at that point. It was me and a couple of coaches watching him in the outfield moving around. I just felt like he wasn't moving like he normally would, so I made the decision right there. Later that night, we dove into the treatments he's getting, how he's feeling. The next day we decided, OK, we need to probably go through a battery of tests with this.”
Baseball’s four-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic had seemed to pay dividends for Judge, who would not have been ready for Opening Day as originally scheduled due to a fractured right rib and a punctured lung.
With his teammates crediting improved health for a jump in performance, Judge batted .290/.343/.758 with two doubles and 20 RBIs to go along with his nine homers in 17 games. Entering play Friday, Judge paced the Majors in homers, RBIs and slugging percentage.
“He's champing at the bit and didn't want to go on the IL because he feels like he can get back out there in a few days,” Boone said. “This is a case of trying to make sure we protect him and make sure we have him for the long haul. Even though we're in a 60-game sprint, the bottom line is if we hurt that more, we jeopardize the season.”
In a corresponding move, the Yankees have recalled infielder/outfielder Thairo Estrada from the club’s alternate training site in Moosic, Pa.
Boone said that he envisions Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman receiving additional playing time as a result of the injuries to Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who is expected to miss three to four weeks with a strained left hamstring. Tauchman got the starting nod in right field on Friday, while Frazier’s name appeared in the lineup as the Yanks’ DH.
“We've lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “That is a blow, especially two guys that are playing as well as they are right now in Aaron and Giancarlo. We have people that can withstand this and we have a ton of confidence in the lineup we're running out there.”
The Yankees’ evaluators and analysts have enjoyed above-average success in recent years in their quest to identify underappreciated talent in other organizations. Third baseman Gio Urshela (Blue Jays), first baseman Luke Voit (Cardinals) and Tauchman (Rockies) are all good examples of players who have found new levels of success in The Bronx.
“I think it boils down to opportunity and trust,” Tauchman said. “I didn't have much of a Major League track record in coming here, and I was still given that opportunity. I felt as though I wasn't just here to fill a roster spot; I was here to contribute.”
Tauchman had compiled impressive Minor League statistics prior to being acquired by the Yankees last March, but he had batted only .153 (9-for-59) in 52 big league games with Colorado from 2017-18.
“As a young player, it's really difficult when you're trying to establish yourself,” Tauchman said. “It's really difficult to relax and just play the game that you've been playing your whole life, but that [Yankees] culture made it easier.”
Aroldis Chapman tossed another 25 pitches to hitters on Friday at the Yanks’ alternate training site. Depending on how the left-hander feels on Saturday, Chapman could return to the closer’s role as soon as Sunday against Boston. Left-hander Zack Britton has filled in during Chapman’s absence, entering play on Friday leading the Majors with seven saves in as many opportunities.
This date in Yankees history
Aug. 14, 1993: Reggie Jackson’s uniform No. 44 was retired prior to the Yanks’ 4-2 victory over the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, with a crowd of 52,598 in attendance to fete the newly minted Hall of Famer.
Left-hander James Paxton (0-1, 7.84 ERA) aims to continue building upon the progress that he displayed in his previous start when the Yankees host the Red Sox on Saturday at 7:07 p.m. ET. Paxton struck out 11 in a no-decision against the Rays, displaying increased fastball velocity. Boston counters with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-1, 4.09), who pitched in 51 games for the Yankees from 2015-16.