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Judge returns, bats leadoff for the first time

@BryanHoch
June 21, 2019

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge returned from the injured list, and the Yankees didn't waste any time getting him to home plate. The slugger was batting leadoff in Friday's 4-1 victory over the Astros, marking the first start of his Major League career in that lineup slot. Yankees manager Aaron

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge returned from the injured list, and the Yankees didn't waste any time getting him to home plate. The slugger was batting leadoff in Friday's 4-1 victory over the Astros, marking the first start of his Major League career in that lineup slot.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the decision to have Judge hit at the top of the order was related to DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit receiving rest days on Friday, as well as Aaron Hicks being sidelined after receiving a cortisone injection in his sore right shoulder.

"I'm just trying to get my best players up there as much as possible," Boone said. "Obviously we gave Luke and DJ the day today, so it's a little different construction, and I just felt it made the most sense. And with Hicks down, I thought it was the right spot for him today."

Judge, 27, went 0-for-4 in his first big league contest since April 20, when he sustained a significant strain of his left oblique that cost him 53 games. At the time of his injury, Judge was batting .288/.404/.521 with five homers and 11 RBIs in 20 games.

"Anytime you get back into games, start moving around and doing what you love, it's always good," Judge said. "I'm just glad to be back, feeling good, and get this thing rolling."

Judge played in five Minor League rehab games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre prior to activation, and said that he will focus more attention on his pregame routine to avoid a recurrence of the oblique strain.

"I've got to make sure I'm warm," Judge said. "That's the biggest thing, get warmed up right, stretch out and get the core working. Once that's ready to go, then just go be an athlete and play. That's about it."

Down time
Hicks was absent from the Yankees' lineup for a second straight day, though he did enter in the fourth inning when Cameron Maybin was forced to exit with a left calf strain.

Hicks said that an MRI taken on Thursday revealed inflammation in the back of his right shoulder, for which he received a cortisone shot. He said he has been dealing with the discomfort for about a week and a half, but was able to take batting practice on Friday.

"I've been pretty much trying to play through it," Hicks said. "It's one of those things that I thought I could play through. I took a swing the other day right-handed, and the trainers started to come around and ask questions about what's going on."

Hicks missed the Yankees' first 40 games of the season due to a lower back strain.

Comeback trail
Domingo Germán tossed 25 pitches in the Yankee Stadium bullpen on Friday, and Boone believes that the right-hander could rejoin the rotation prior to the July 8-11 All-Star break.

"It felt really good," German said through an interpreter. "I felt stronger and [I had] more stability on the mound. I think I'm progressing very well. I think I'm getting closer to where I can pitch in a game."

German said he is scheduled to throw another bullpen on Monday, then would require a Minor League rehab start before facing big league hitters.

This date in Yankees history
June 21, 2014: The Yankees held "Tino Martinez Day" at Yankee Stadium, honoring the former first baseman with a plaque in Monument Park. Martinez's plaque lauds him for his powerful bat and superlative defense, noting his status as a fan favorite on four World Series championship clubs.

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