Aaron Judge took the blame for his failed rehab. The Yankees slugger, having never dealt with a calf injury before, pushed to come off the injured list last month, only to play six innings of one game and have to go back on the IL.
“I think everything was handled correctly, I felt good, nothing I think on my end, nothing on the training staff’s end, we all felt confident about what I was doing,” Judge said Thursday, talking for the first time since returning and playing Wednesday night. “I’ve never had a calf injury before which kind of makes it tough, not really knowing. I’ve had a quad before, I’ve had other oblique and shoulder stuff. You can kind of play through that and deal with that. So I just think there’s not kind of the unknown of a calf injury and how much you use (the calf muscle). I kind of didn’t realize how much you use your calf in daily life and baseball, how explosive it is and how weight-bearing It is.
“So I think if it’s anything, that’s on me, trying to push it and get back as quick as I can.”
The Yankee slugger ended up missing 30 games total from Aug. 11 to Sept. 16. This time, Judge was on a much slower rehab plan and he notices the difference.
“The second time, no tightness, no pain, no nothing. So when there’s no tightness and feels good that’s when I knew I was I was ready to go. So it’s been feeling great down at the alternate site, playing the games down there. And then, last night playing the game, even though I was a little more amped up and ready to go, it felt great. And it responded well even this morning, waking up, everything felt great.
“I tried to fight with (Aaron Boone) to get me in the lineup,” Judge added with a smile, “but we’re gonna do our thing.”
That means easing Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres back into regular, everyday play down the stretch of these final 11 games. After going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, Boone had Judge out of the lineup Thursday as he said he would. Judge is expected back in the lineup Friday in Boston against the Red Sox.
“I think that’s what we kind of got these off days built into it. That’s the luxury of usually playing 162, when guys come back from injuries, they got time to have a couple days off, but now we’re down the stretch and not many games left. It’s gonna be tough to get those off days.
“I think we’re kind of looking towards the postseason and making sure that the whole team — me, Gleyber and everybody — is at full strength going into the postseason so I think they’re just going to give us a couple days.
And he needs these games down the stretch to get back his timing at the plate.
“I think it’ll be kind of like last year, four or five games, to be honest,” Judge said. “I felt good. I feel like I’m seeing the ball well, swinging at the right pitches in the zone. But it’s just that, being back you kind of get those jitters again, you can be jumping at the ball. I am just a little anxious now, it’s just time to kind of cool the nerves a little bit. So four or five games and, you know, we’ll be right back into it.”
Judge was slashing .292/.343/.748 with nine home runs in 71 plate appearances before he went on the injured list.
This isn’t his first time dealing with injuries.
Judge missed all of the first edition of spring training with what was eventually diagnosed as a fractured right rib and a partially collapsed lung. The four-month coronavirus pandemic shutdown allowed him to heal and he showed up for the rebooted spring training healthy — though he did miss a few days with a stiff neck.
In 2019, Judge missed 54 games after straining his oblique in April.
Of course in 2018, Judge lost most of the second half of the season to a fractured wrist. After hitting 25 homers and driving in 60 runs in the first 93 games of the season, he only played in 19 in the second half. He hit two homers and drove in seven runs.
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