Eyeing return vs Red Sox, Judge homers off minor leaguer
Judge was hitless in his return and Betts sat out when the Yankees beat the Red Sox 3-2 in the opener of a three-game series Tuesday night. The game was pushed back about six hours because of rain in the forecast and began at 7:08 p.m.
The delay allowed Judge to talk his way into manager Aaron Boone's lineup for the first time since breaking his right wrist on July 26. Boone slotted Judge to bat second and play right field, but only because the late start gave him and the front office a few extra hours to evaluate Judge.
"I just voiced my opinion — a lot," Judge said with a grin. "And they kind of got tired of me telling them I would be playing, so they finally said, 'Let's just put him in there and see what happens.'"
Judge went 0 for 4, including a pop fly to the warning track in the right field corner, but he came away pleased with his at-bats. Boone thought he seemed impressively sharp after being on the shelf for so long.
"He's a special person, so I'm not surprised," Boone said. "He comes in with an edge, with a focus and just an ability to lock in in a hurry. I thought he was in a good place all night long, just with his presence, with who he is and the at-bats he was able to have."
Manager Alex Cora wrote Betts in as his center fielder as of 9 a.m., even after the AL MVP contender injured his left side Sunday. But then the conditions turned soggy.
"He's doing OK," Cora said. "The weather kind of like pushed me to not play him."
Judge was injured when hit by a pitch. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year was activated Friday and played two innings in right field that night without going to the plate. Judge has said his wrist no longer bothers him while swinging a bat, but he has been experiencing discomfort on more routine movements.
He had 11 at-bats in a simulated game Monday and lofted an opposite-field homer to right during a series of simulated plate appearances against Yankees minor leaguer Adonis Rosa on Tuesday morning.
Judge was late on some fastballs and had a number of swings and misses against Rosa, who struck out 108 over 128 1/3 innings across three minor league levels this season. A large contingent of Yankees personnel watched the session, including Boone and general manager Brian Cashman.
Judge's workload will be monitored closely down the stretch, with New York eager to get him at-bats before likely playing in the AL wild-card game.
"We want to start that clock of getting in there and playing and getting him those ABs," Boone said. "So he can find that timing sooner rather than later. Physically he's good to go."
Boston leads the Yankees by 10½ games and can clinch the AL East with a win Wednesday.
Cora can be cautious with Betts because the Red Sox have by far baseball's best record, but Betts prefers consistent at-bats to stay sharp. He's also making a push for his first MVP award with an AL-best .337 batting average.
"I know he's close to doing a few things that are very special in this game," Cora said. "But like I've been saying, he's a small guy, not as big as some other ones, and we need him to be close to 100 percent."
The Yankees also plan to activate closer Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday or Thursday. The left-hander is working back from left knee tendinitis. He said he felt strong after throwing 22 pitches in a simulated game Monday.