Yankees fans held their breath briefly on Tuesday when star slugger Aaron Judge abruptly exited in the sixth inning against the Braves -- after cracking his league-leading ninth homer only an inning prior.
Manager Aaron Boone said after the game that Judge's early departure was nothing to worry about, but it appears there's enough concern within the Yankees to cost Judge at least one start.
The All-Star right-fielder was on the bench for Wednesday's rematch against the Braves in the Bronx with what Boone called "lower body tightness."
The third-year manager said it was too soon to say whether Judge would be ready to return to action for the Yankees' next game, against the Red Sox in New York on Friday.
It was unclear if the ailment was in any way related to the shoulder and rib injuries that Judge sustained late last year and lingered into spring training.
Judge's blistering-hot start has served as a reminder he is one of the game's most potent offensive forces when healthy, but doing so has proven elusive for the slugger in his young career.
Injuries limited the 28-year-old to 112 and 102 games in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
After Tuesday's 9-6 win over Atlanta, Boone downplayed the unusual move of lifting his most feared slugger in the sixth inning.
"He really hasn’t had that day down, and I want to make sure we are being smart with everyone."
Back home on the grass of Yankee Stadium, Boone explained that the hard surface at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg was a factor in the unusual move.
“Coming off four days on the turf, and with a little bit of leverage there, just trying to be smart with these guys."
With the Yankees leading Atlanta by five runs in the sixth inning, Judge was curiously pinch-hit for by Mike Tauchman. Judge remained in the dugout for about an inning but later disappeared into the clubhouse, and didn't return for post-game handshakes, according to the Associated Press.
Boone said Judge was merely getting an early start on his usual postgame routine.
“Just going in and getting his normal treatment,” Boone said.
Meanwhile Judge's laser-beam home run off Atlanta rookie Bryse Wilson clocked in at 113 mph off the bat, according to Statcast, and left a dent in an advertisement well beyond the wall in right-center field.
“I’m surprised he didn’t put a hole in the sign,” first baseman Luke Voit said.