Aaron Judge worked a 3-2 count during his first plate appearance in the first inning of New York’s 7-2 victory over the Royals Thursday night. He then took a Jakob Junis 93-mph fastball off his right wrist, took a slow walk to first base, was examined by head trainer Steve Donahue and manager Aaron Boone, but stayed in the game.
Judge scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s sacrifice fly, remained in the game at DH, and singled in his next at-bat in the third inning. He was then examined by the team doctor, removed from the game, and subsequently sent to New York-Presbyterian for an MRI.
We all held our breath for the reminder of the game, awaiting the results. Unfortunately, the news was bad. Judge sustained a chip fracture in his wrist. Although it won’t require surgery, he is expected to miss at least three weeks.
This is a big blow to the Yankees’ pennant hopes, and it comes during a week that saw the club make a pair of significant upgrades to its pitching staff. Judge leads the team in homers (26), runs scored (70), on-base percentage (.398), slugging average (.548), OPS (.947), and walks (68). He is tied with Stanton for the team lead in RBIs with 61.
Obviously, there is no one waiting in the wings who can step in and replace a superstar like All Rise. Still, the Yankees have to do something to cover Judge’s playing time while they anxiously await his return.
The club had a glut of outfielders earlier this year, but its options have suddenly shrunk. Clint Frazier recently re-entered the concussion protocol, and there is currently no timetable for his return. Billy McKinney was just shipped off to Toronto to secure the services of J.A. Happ.
Aaron Boone will likely go with his best alignment in the outfield, which is Stanton in right, Aaron Hicks in center, and Brett Gardner in left. Miguel Andujar replaced Judge at designated hitter when he came out of the game, so it would be logical to have him continue in that role moving forward. This allows Boone to play the more sure-handed Neil Walker at third base.
The Yankees just recalled journeyman Shane Robinson from Triple-A, who is now likely to stick around as the fourth outfielder. Tyler Wade and Tyler Austin are also on the 40-man roster as outfield options. Barring a trade, the Yankees will have to make do until Judge returns. Everyone in the lineup will have to kick it up a notch to try to somehow cover his production at the plate.