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New York Yankees superstar Aaron Judge may be inching closing to returning to the lineup.
Judge has missed most of the past month and a half after suffering a freak injury on a tremendous play at Dodger Stadium.
Initially, the team downplayed the severity somewhat, with initial expectations that he wouldn’t miss substantial time. That’s proven to be overly optimistic however, as Judge had been unable to make significant inroads towards returning.
READ: AARON JUDGE HAS TORN LIGAMENT IN TOE, RETURN STILL UNKNOWN
At least until now.
The Yankees provided an update Friday on Judge’s recovery, announcing some potentially encouraging progress. Judge took some batting practice, did light running and did fielding drills before Friday’s game.
Even more encouraging, he’s scheduled to face live pitching on Sunday. Reliever Jonathan Loaisiga will be throwing a bullpen session, with Judge expected to take a few at bats.
If he’s able to get through that process healthy, the Yankees would have a much clearer picture of his potential return.
Manager Aaron Boone addressed the next steps and possibility of establishing a timeline, assuming he’s cleared. “Potentially,’’ Boone said. “He’ll probably ramp up baseball activities going into that.”
Judge Update Provides Hope For Flailing Yankees
While the Yankees have climbed out of last place in the AL East, their division hopes have all but evaporated.
Without Judge, the team’s offense has been nearly nonexistent, scoring just 3.7 runs per game compared to 5.0 when healthy. That’s contributed to a .429 winning percentage without the 2022 AL MVP.
With him healthy, the Yankees are 30-19, much closer to preseason expectations.
A potential wild card berth is still well within reach, and with the trade deadline rapidly approaching, a timeline would be extremely valuable. If Judge is able to return within the next 4-5 weeks, Brian Cashman may want to be more aggressive in upgrading the roster.
If however, Judge stays out well into September, it may not be worth parting with top prospects to improve their sinking postseason odds.
Without him, the Yankees have seen their playoff probability sink to just 33%. But based on this relatively optimistic update, those may be increasing substantially in time to salvage the 2023 season.