Aaron Judge hasn’t played since June 3, when the Yankees superstar made a highlight-reel catch that sent him crashing through Dodger Stadium’s right field bullpen door. Judge sprained his right big toe while colliding with the concrete base under the bullpen door, and after two weeks on the sidelines, it remains unclear when Judge might return from the 10-day injured list.
After Judge received a PRP injection on June 6, the outfielder got another shot focused on a different ligament on Thursday, Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters (including The Athletic’s Brendan Kuty and MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch). “Any time you strain or tear the ligaments, it takes time to heal that, honestly. PRPs hopefully speed that process up,” Boone said. “Hopefully he’s continuing to move in the right direction. We feel like he was, but that other part of the joint or of the toe…was still giving him problems after the first PRP. To get in and hit the other parts of it, hopefully is something that speeds [the process].”
Range-of-motion exercises are the next step on Judge’s rehab plan, and further steps towards baseball activities remain fluid, as the Yankees are naturally being cautious. Owner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier this week that Judge’s sprain was “like a turf toe,” and “a rare injury for a baseball player…I think it’s common in football probably with running backs.”
Kuty spoke with Dr. Spencer Stein of NYU Langone Health about Judge’s injury, and while Stein hasn’t personally examined the outfielder, the orthopedic surgeon said that a second PRP injection isn’t particular unusual for such an injury. Stein suggested that Judge could be back by mid-July, though Boone provided a broader range of potential return dates.
First saying “there’s a shot” that Judge could return before the All-Star break, Boone added that “he could be back in a week. He could be back in four. I don’t know. We’ve got to get to a point where we’re starting to move the ball from a physical activity or baseball standpoint.”
It’s no secret that Judge is the cornerstone of the Yankees roster, and the last two weeks have only underscored his importance to the lineup. From June 4 to June 16, Yankee batters have hit a collective .205/.264/.361, with a 71 wRC+ that ranks as the third-worst in baseball during that span.
Some reinforcements may be on the way in the form of Harrison Bader, though Bader opted to extend his minor league rehab stint probably through the weekend. As Boone told the New York Daily News’ Gary Phillips and other reporters, Bader wanted more than just one rehab game to ensure that his right hamstring strain was fully healed. Bader was placed on the IL on May 29, and between this absence and a left oblique strain that cost him over the first month of the season, the outfielder has played in only 26 games this season (hitting .267/.295/.511 with six home runs in 95 plate appearances).
On the pitching side, Carlos Rodon is slated to begin his minor league rehab assignment on Tuesday. Between a forearm strain and then a back problem, Rodon has yet to make his Yankee debut since joining the club on a six-year, $162MM free agent deal in December. Early July is Rodon’s target date, as Boone said the plan is for Rodon to make three rehab outings with steadily increasing pitch counts.