The Yankees are expected to open the 60-game MLB season against the Washington Nationals on July 23, but one of the focal points surrounding the team is whether or not Aaron Judge will be in the lineup.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman seems to think it is realistic.
“We’re very optimistic as of right now that maybe his proclamation he will be ready on Opening Day will ring true,” Cashman said. “He has healed very well, and he’s essentially doing all the physical activities, so now it comes down to game reps, facing live pitching and seeing if he’s in game shape.
“There is optimism that he has a shot to be plug-and-play ready. He has checked all the boxes so far.”
Judge has been recovering from a stress fracture in his right rib that he began experiencing pain in during spring training and was believed to have occurred when he made a diving catch late last season. Judge was also discovered to have a collapsed lung.
The Yankees have not provided an injury update on Judge since May 22, when hitting coach Marcus Thames said Judge had not yet begun hitting.
YES Network’s Ken Singleton recently revealed that Judge was hitting off a tee. Whether or not he has graduated from that step is still unclear.
Judge is also not the only health concern on the roster.
Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton and Aaron Hicks are also recovering from their own injuries.
Stanton, who played in just 18 games last season due to a series of injuries including a knee, calf and quad, was battling another calf strain when spring training was shut down back in March. It does not sound as if he has made a full recovery from it just yet.
"I think a DH role by Opening Day is a possibility," Cashman said of Stanton. "The game reps and physical conditioning for him to be ready in a legitimate outfield role is to be determined. Optimism that at the very least, the DH spot could be in play for us. He didn’t have a chance to do his baseball reps with the calf injury."
Meanwhile, Paxton appears to be in the best shape to be ready for the season after his February back surgery to repair a herniated disc.
"Paxton has recovered, he has been or appears game ready," Cashman said. "It comes down to evaluating how he looks over the next 3 weeks but he enters spring training ready to go and we believe his issue is resolved."
Hicks, meanwhile, is the most pleasant surprise of the group. The Yankees outfielder underwent Tommy John surgery in the offseason and was expected to miss a large chunk of the 2020 season. Now, it is possible he could be healthy in time for Opening Day.
"There’s no concern with his reconstruction, it has more to do with where he is at conditioning-wise," Cashman said. "It’s possible he’ll be ready on Opening Day, but the coming weeks will determine where he’s at."