12:44PM: Judge discussed his injury with Hoch (Twitter links) and other reporters, saying “It’s not going to be perfect here in a couple of weeks. Once we can manage the pain, we’re going to be in a good spot….I don’t think too many people in here have torn a ligament in their toe. If it was a quad, we’d have a better answer. If it’s an oblique or hamstring, we have answers and a timeline for that. With how unique this injury is, and it being my back foot, which I push off of and run off of, it’s a tough spot.”
12:26PM: Aaron Judge suffered what was thought to be a sprained right big toe and a bruise when he crashed into the concrete support beam under the Dodger Stadium right-field bullpen door on June 3, while making a spectacular catch. Judge hasn’t played since, and while he has reportedly been making steady progress in his recovery, Yankees manager Aaron Boone was non-committal about predicting when Judge might return.
Another detail has now come from Judge himself, who told reporters (including Newsday’s Erik Boland and The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner) that his injury included a torn toe ligament, not just a sprain. Judge is still feeling pain when he walks, and while he might be starting some limited baseball-related activities soon, he won’t yet be able to run until he can at least walk without discomfort.
While this is new information to the public, it obviously isn’t a surprise to the team, so it isn’t clear if this materially changes whatever very loose timeline might be in place for Judge to return to New York’s lineup. Boone suggested that Judge could get back to action before the All-Star break, and that might appear to be a best-case scenario given how relatively far away Judge seems to be from truly ramping up his rehab work.
Speaking with MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch and other reporters today, Boone said he believes Judge will be back before the end of the 2023 season, though he didn’t guarantee it. As ominous as this sounds, Boone may have been holding back on linguistic grounds (since a guarantee is “an absolute. I can’t say that about anyone.”) rather than out of genuine concern over a truly long-term injury to the reigning AL MVP. That said, it is certainly disconcerting that there’s even a slim chance Judge’s toe injury might bring a premature end to his season.
The Yankees have a mediocre 6-10 record since Judge’s last game, with a league-worst 66 wRC+. Considering that severe lack of offense, a 6-10 record might actually be an achievement, and the Yankees have remained in a wild card spot due to some struggles from other AL playoff contenders. Needless to say, New York’s chances of staying in the playoff race will be heavily diminished if Judge can’t get back to the field soon, given his outsized role in carrying the Yankee lineup.