Thursday afternoon, Aaron Judge walked over to home plate at Yankee Stadium and pretended to hit before sprinting out of the box. It was just a running drill for Judge, because two weeks after he suffered a chip fracture on his right wrist, the Yankees slugger has not been pain-free enough to pick up a bat.
But Aaron Boone was encouraged.
"Aaron was out running bases today, continuing with his range of motion, which continues to improve," the Yankees skipper said before Thursday night's series-opening game against the Rangers in the Bronx. "Not at the point where he's picking up a bat yet, but I feel like we're getting closer to that point. He's going to see a doctor tonight so we should have a better update."
The Yankees were initially optimistic that Judge would be swinging a week after he was hit on the wrist by a 93 mile per hour pitch from Royals pitcher Jakob Junis. He is now a week behind that schedule, and with Gary Sanchez also on the disabled list trying to work his way back, the Yankees' lineup is decidedly light on right-handed power hitters.
That was evident last weekend as the Yankee lineup was silenced by the Red Sox. It was also a concern before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and had the Yankees kicking the tires on possible right-handed hitting outfielders as some insurance for this stretch.
There are still some possible targets out there whom the Yankees could deal for before the Aug. 30 waiver trade deadline. Andrew McCutchen makes some sense for the Yankees. The quickest and best fit, however, would probably be a lot closer to home. As it always seems to happen, however, it is complicated by the fact it would involve the Mets, because a simple and cheap solution would be a deal for Jose Bautista. Sources with both teams, however, have said that deals with the crosstown rivals are very difficult to work out. A Yankees source said the team had no interest in Bautista.
Of course, the Yankees still have Giancarlo Stanton, who hit his sixth career grand slam to clinch the sweep in Chicago. Aaron Hicks, who can switch hit, also seems to be coming into his own in their lineup, hitting .302 with three homers and seven RBIs over his last 13 games. The Yankees also have Neil Walker with some potential right-handed power, and the Bombers brought up Luke Voit, just acquired at the deadline from the Cardinals, for some insurance there.
The Yankees seem optimistic that with a lighter schedule for the rest of this month, not facing a team currently over .500 until next month's trip out west to face off against the surging A's and Mariners, that they can hold on until they get their own big right-handers back in the lineup.
The news on Sanchez, who is on the disabled list with a groin injury for the second time in the last three months, was encouraging Thursday. He was scheduled to run on the field Thursday and continue working on his running in Tampa over the weekend. He is expected to join the team in New York on Sunday night to begin working on catching.
And after watching as Judge ran the bases Thursday before the game, it was clear Boone thinks that he will have his right-handed power bats back soon enough. In the Yankees' initial announcement about Judge's injury, the team said that it would be possible for him to swing a bat in a game situation three weeks from the day of the injury. While that seems unlikely to be in a major league game, the Yankees seem to still be holding out hope for a possible minor-league rehab game.
"Because it's, 'once the pain is out of there, it's go.' I believe it'll move fast from there because he's been able to lift, he's been able to do all his conditioning," Boone said explaining his optimism for having Judge back sooner rather than later. "We just gotta get to that point where the pain is all out of there at that end, then he gets a bat in his hand and it progresses quickly from there."
At this point, their return can't be quick enough for Boone and the Yankees.