NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge has maintained that he plans to be in the Yankees’ lineup when the 2020 season begins, and general manager Brian Cashman said on Tuesday “there is optimism” that will prove to be the case.
Judge has resumed hitting and throwing activities in advance of the Bombers’ Summer Camp at Yankee Stadium, which is expected to begin on Saturday. The outfielder was unable to bat during Spring Training due to what was eventually diagnosed as a cracked right rib and a punctured lung, which the team believed stemmed from an attempted diving catch last September.
“We're very optimistic as of right now that maybe his proclamation that he would be ready Opening Day and in the lineup will ring true,” Cashman said on Tuesday. “He has been essentially doing all of his physical activities. Now it comes down to game reps, facing live pitching and seeing if he's in game shape. I think there is optimism that if everything works out in the next three weeks, he'll respond really well to that Spring Training 2.0 and he has a shot to be plug-and-play and ready to go.”
In a separate interview with the YES Network, Cashman added that Judge has batted against a pitching machine and will be challenged to face live pitching shortly after the Summer Camp begins. Cashman said that the Yankees also expect to have outfielder Aaron Hicks, left-hander James Paxton and outfielder/designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton on the Opening Day roster.
Hicks is recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in October, Paxton had back surgery on Feb. 5 to address a herniated disk and peridiscal cyst, and Stanton sustained a right calf strain during outfield drills on Feb. 26.
“Paxton appears game ready as he finished off his rehab, so it just comes back to evaluating how he looks over the next three weeks,” Cashman said. “He enters Spring Training as ready to go. That shouldn't be an issue at all, building up where he is physically and stamina-wise.
“Aaron Hicks, I don't think there's any concern with his reconstructive Tommy John surgery. I think it has more to do with where he is physically, conditioning-wise. I'm sure he feels he'll be game ready by Opening Day, and I think that's possible. He checks a lot of the conditioning boxes to finish him off in a Spring Training setting.”
Cashman said that he believes Stanton will be ready to serve as the DH when the season begins, but his availability to play the outfield is in question.
“I think Stanton will be good to go,” Cashman said. “He had a calf injury, so he hasn't had a chance to do baseball reps, where you're out there doing the outfield drills, the full baserunning. There's a conditioning aspect there for Aaron Hicks as well as Aaron Judge.
“All of them are, to various degrees, now going to evaluated. Are they healthy? I think they're physically good. It just comes down to are they prepared for the availability for Game 1 and having the comfort level that your manager and staff are going to want.”
The entire Yankees player pool is expected to begin workouts in The Bronx on Saturday, though Cashman said that some players may be unable to arrive on time due to travel restrictions. Within the next seven to 10 days, the team plans to relocate some players to a secondary training site at PNC Field in Moosic, Pa., home of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.
The initial plan had been to hold Summer Camp at the team’s spring home in Tampa, Fla., where they would have utilized George M. Steinbrenner Field as well as the nearby Player Development complex on Himes Avenue. Rising COVID-19 numbers in Florida prompted a shift to Yankee Stadium, the first Yankees training camp in the northeast United States since World War II.
In order to fit camp within the footprint of Yankee Stadium, the club is aiming to use as much available space as possible. Players will dress in the home, visiting and auxiliary clubhouses, using both the home and road bullpens and batting tunnels.
Concourses, dugouts and fan seating areas will be utilized to maximize social distancing, and Cashman suggested that pitchers may perform their flat-ground throwing in the Great Hall, a 31,000 square foot indoor expanse that runs along the first-base line.
“We are dealing with and discussing all of these things,” Cashman said. “Our stadium ops personnel are fast-tracking all of the ideas that you can imagine so we can take advantage of the facility.”