New York Yankees Playoff Hopes Hinge On Aaron Judge Return From Injury

Aaron Judge at New York Yankees Game
Published by NYSB Staff
Last Updated: 30. Jun 2023.

2022 American League MVP Aaron Judge revealed on Saturday that he has a torn ligament in his right big toe. The right fielder has missed 18 games since going on the injured list (IL) on June 4 but expects to return to the New York Yankees' lineup this season.

"That's obvious. I expect to be back," the four-time All-Star explained to Jon Heyman of the New York Post. "I'm going to do everything I can to put myself in that position."

The 31-year-old smacked 62 long balls last year to set the new single-season American League home run record. The 16th captain in the storied history of the Yankees batted .311 with 177 hits, 111 walks, 133 runs scored, and 131 RBIs.

Details of the Incident and Team Response

Judge suffered the injury on June 3 when he collided with a wall at Dodgers Stadium while making a spectacular catch. The 6-foot-7, 282-pounder crashed through a chainlink fence and hit his big toe on a concrete ledge at the bottom of the bullpen door. 

Because of the unfortunate incident, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Dodgers will reinforce the fence gate that came open when Judge crashed into it and also put padding on the concrete base of the bullpen fence.

This marks the California native second stint on the IL since inking a nine-year, $360-million contract during the offseason. Judge missed 10 days in April after injuring his hip on an awkward slide against the Minnesota Twins.

New York has lost 11 of 19 games without the former AL Rookie of the Year. The Yankees were six games behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays on the day Judge hurt his big toe, but are 9.5 games back after escaping with a 6-5 victory Sunday against the Texas Rangers.

Judge is hitting .291 with 19 homers and 40 RBIs in 49 games this season. However, he batted .325 with five doubles, 13 homers, and 26 RBIs in 23 games after returning from the IL on May 10.

Since losing their top hitter on June 4, the Yankees rank 28th in the majors with 3.3 runs per game. Giancarlo Stanton is batting .089 with one RBI, while Anthony Rizzo (.143, 5 RBIs), DJ LeMahieu (.147, 2 RBIs), and Josh Donaldson (.103, 4 RBIs) are also struggling at the plate.

While his teammates struggle mightily without his big bat in the lineup, Judge feels helpless watching from the sidelines.

"It's tough. That's always been my thing is I want to be out there with the guys, through the good times, through the bad times, I want to be in the trenches with them," explained Judge. "It's tough sitting back watching. At times you want to speak up and say things, but it's like, 'Who's that guy sitting on the bench telling us stuff?' "

The Bronx Bombers have advanced to the playoffs the past six seasons but will need Judge to return to the lineup as soon as possible to continue their postseason streak. Unfortunately for New York fans, there is no timeline for the two-time AL home run leader to suit up again.

Uncertainty Around Judge's Return and Playoff Hopes

Yankees manager Aaron Boone could not provide a timeline but remains confident Judge will return this season. 

"That's an absolute," Boone said when asked if he could guarantee the slugger would return in 2023. "I can't say that about anyone. The reality is he is just not yet at a level where he can play."

While team officials were hopeful that Judge could start baseball activities this past weekend, the power hitter is still experiencing pain in his big toe when he walks, according to ESPN.

Similar to his manager, who refused to assure that Judge would play again this season, the right fielder was also unsure of his status for the second half of the 2022 campaign.

"I can't make any promises," said Judge via the New York Post. "I wish I had an answer. I just feel bad. You guys are looking for answers. That's your job. You're reporting. I've got no answers. I'm trying to figure stuff out and get through this thing."

If Judge cannot find the answer, the Yankees' MLB betting odds are slim and nonexistent for making the playoffs.

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