Yankees didn't expect Aaron Judge back from rib injury until summer

ByMarly Rivera ESPN logo
Thursday, May 14, 2020

If the New York Yankees return to play this season, they will have healthy outfielders in Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, according to general manager Brian Cashman.

Cashman addressed a variety of topics, including the slow healing of Judge's injured rib, during a charity video call Thursday, revealing that the team never expected Judge to be ready before the summer.

"Ultimately, the broken rib that Aaron Judge suffered, it's in an area that the blood flow to that region is more difficult," Cashman said of the rib injury -- as well as the subsequent punctured lung -- that Judge has attributed to an attempted catch Sept. 18 against the Angels at Yankee Stadium. "Blood flow is a significant part of the healing, so that's why the time frame is longer. When it happened, I always felt that we wouldn't see Judge more likely until the summertime."

Cashman added: "But Aaron Judge, like most superstar athletes, [feel like] they're invincible and like they'll be back sooner than later. I think that his pain threshold is Jeter-like, too. He never complains. He never shares that something is bothering him. So obviously when he did show up in the spring and said something's been bothering him, it was an 'uh-oh' moment because he really does not ever complain about anything. And he didn't complain in the wintertime either."

According to manager Aaron Boone, Judge was scheduled to undergo another CT scan on his injured rib later this month. Cashman said he's encouraged by the outfielder's recovery.

"We've had some multiple reimaging that shows the healing, and we'll continue that process that will hopefully continue to show that expected healing moving forward," he said. "Once we resume play, we're excited and believe that he's going to rejoin us at full capacity. Fortunately for him, he's been able to take advantage of this COVID experience, but he wants to play as much as anybody, and we look forward to getting him back in the lineup."

Baseball's shutdown has also given Hicks, who was expected to miss a significant portion of the 2020 season after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, extra time to recover.

"Aaron Hicks has been tremendous, in terms of his rehab," said Cashman, revealing as well that Hicks and his girlfriend welcomed their second child last week. "He's practicing dry swings, he's got a throwing program, and I think him playing center field for the New York Yankees this summer is a legit option. We're excited to get him back because I think he's one of the better center fielders in the game."

Cashman also provided the latest on left-handed starter James Paxton, who underwent back surgery in February and was slated for a late May or June return. The 31-year-old, rehabbing at his home in Wisconsin, has progressed to throwing simulated games.

As for a possible return-to-play scenario in 2020, Cashman said that he remained "optimistic" that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association would reach an agreement.

"I see there's a lot of hurdles that everyone's trying to navigate and certainly trying to find common ground," he said. "The commissioner and his team are having frank conversations and negotiations [with the players' association]. I'm optimistic that where there's a will, there's a way.

"All of us in this country are trying to find a way to get up and running. The initial prime focus [has been] trying to share information of how can we, as an industry, create a safe environment, because that's the only way it's going to work. How can we provide an environment that accomplishes that and at the same time brings our business back? Just like everybody else is trying to do the same thing. Baseball is no different, even though it's a sport. Everybody has a unique challenge, but each industry is trying to find a way to adjust in this COVID environment."