Yankees slugger Judge healed, set to return to lineup Friday
The slugger is expected to be activated from the injured list Friday night to play against Houston, his first game since straining his left oblique on a swing April 20.
The 27-year-old right fielder was batting .288 with five home runs and 11 RBIs when he got hurt.
"I'm not going to try to baby it or go at 80%. We're in the major leagues," Judge said Thursday night. "We're ready to go. That's not something I'm worried about happening again."
Judge was smiling in the Yankees clubhouse before the series opener against the Astros in a matchup of first-place teams.
"To see him walk through the doors earlier today and walk into the coaches' room, really good seeing him knowing he feels really good," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Judge's return will come the same week fellow slugger Giancarlo Stanton returned from a series of injuries that caused the former NL MVP to miss 68 games. The Yankees have added Edwin Encarnacion — tied for the AL home run lead — in a trade with Seattle since Judge last played.
Judge wrapped up a five-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, going 2 for 16 with a homer.
New York sits atop the AL East after a three-game sweep of second-place Tampa Bay, helped by solid performances from a cast of unlikely fill-ins, including Cameron Maybin.
The veteran outfielder might lose his spot Friday despite batting .307 with five homers and 12 RBIs in 40 games since joining the Yankees in late April, as the team now faces a roster crunch.
"I'm just trying to crack this lineup," Judge joked about the team's glut of offensive firepower. "I don't know where I'm going to fit in. We'll see."