Judge got a big ovation when he trotted to the outfield for the top of the eighth inning. He had not played since July 26, when he was hit by a pitch from Kansas City's Jakob Junis. The Yankees initially expected Judge to return in about three weeks.
"With the roster, it makes some sense to have him available to, if there's a spot where we can get him in, to run the bases or play some defense," New York manager Aaron Boone said before the start of New York's final regular-season homestand. "He's getting real close to being an option for us."
Judge on Monday took his first on-field batting practice since the injury. Boone said Friday the team is a couple days from making a decision on at-bats for Judge in a simulated game, a step before he will hit in a game. Judge has to take more swings and face higher velocity before he hits in a game.
"It's about hopefully getting him enough at-bats to where he can kind of knock off some of that rust, and hopefully that timing comes back sooner rather than later and he gets in a comfortable place as we head into the final week and into October," Boone said.
Judge is hitting .285 with 26 home runs and 61 RBIs. The Yankees entered Friday 26-20 since he got hurt, fading from contention in the AL East but on track to earn a wild card. In discussing Judge's importance in the clubhouse, Boone echoed the old EF Hutton advertising campaign of the 1970s and '80s.
"When Aaron speaks, people listen," Boone said. Injured closer Aroldis Chapman is to throw another bullpen session Saturday, a simulated game on Monday and then could be activated in the middle of next week, Chapman has not pitched in a game since Aug. 21 because of left knee tendinitis.
"I'm feeling really good right now," Chapman said through a translator. "No pain and nothing."
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