Aaron Judge was back in the lineup for the New York Yankees on Friday night, after having been sidelined for nearly two months with an injured right toe. But his return was spoiled by the Baltimore Orioles, who walked off with a 1-0 victory.
It was Judge’s first game since tearing a ligament in his right big toe June 3 when he crashed into the right-field fence while making a catch at Dodger Stadium. The reigning American League MVP walked three times and lined out in his only at-bat as the Orioles built their lead over the last-place Yankees to nine.
The Yankees reinstated Judge from the injured list Friday before the opener of their weekend road series against Baltimore. Judge admits he isn’t fully recovered but says he is healthy enough to play.
“It’s feeling all right, feeling good,” he said. “It’s not 100%. I don’t think it’ll be 100% until the end of the year. I think our biggest goal is just getting to a point where I could play, I could tolerate it.”
Judge played a simulated game Wednesday at the team’s complex in Tampa, Florida, and returned to New York after that. The star slugger faced live pitching Sunday at Yankee Stadium for the first time since the injury. Manager Aaron Boone said Judge homered during a simulated game Tuesday in Florida. He also played the field and ran the bases.
He was penciled into the lineup as the designated hitter, batting second Friday night. Boone said Judge could have potentially played in the field, but that will be a day-by-day decision.
“First pitch swinging his first time he lines out to right, then obviously a lot of really competitive walks” Boone said of Judge’s first game back. “Really good to see him see a lot of pitches and really control the strike zone like he did.”
New York is 19-24 since Judge got hurt in Los Angeles. The Yankees are 30-19 with the star outfielder, who also missed 10 games earlier this season with a right hip strain.
Judge set an AL record with 62 home runs last year. He is batting .290 with 19 homers and 40 RBIs in the first season of a nine-year, $360 million contract he signed last offseason.
“I guess he’s back and he’s ready,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “So we’ll have to pitch to him well.”
Judge was asked if the team’s offensive struggles without him made him even more anxious to come back.
“No, I just wanted to get back,” Judge said after a noticeable pause. “Any time you’re sitting out, even if we were winning and we had an eight-game lead in the division, or we were 10 games out of it, I want to be back out there battling with the guys.”
Boone said Judge had an MRI in the past few days, and Judge indicated that was a factor in his return.
“I didn’t want to come back and make it worse, and this is something that leads into the next year and the following year,” he said. “Ligament’s stable. Last couple MRIs didn’t really show much healing, but this one did.”
To make room for Judge, the Yankees optioned infielder Oswald Peraza to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.