Sunday, April 21, 2019

Judge's Bat & Leadership Will Be Hard To Replace

Aaron Judge. Photo by Jason Schott.

Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge was placed on the injury list with a left oblique strain on Sunday morning.

Judge is now the 13th Yankee to go on the IL as he suffered the oblique injury on a swing in the sixth inning of Saturday's 9-2 win over Kansas City.

Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said on Sunday morning of Judge's injury, "Strained oblique, pretty significant strain in there."

On the timeline of Judge's injury, Boone said, "Not sure, because these next couple of weeks will kind of be a lot of just the healing process, so I think, once we get through these first couple weeks, then we'll have a better timeline for you. It would be kind of vague right now.

"With obliques, they don't grade (the severity of the injury), it's not like that. He's got a strain in there. His initial days will be rest and recovery and, obviously, just treating it...I don't want to get into speculating on it. Let's just let the next couple of weeks unfold and then, hopefully, we'll have a sharper timeline."

Judge is hitting .288 with 5 home runs and 11 RBI in 20 games this season. He is arguably the biggest threat in the Yankee lineup, as he works pitchers and they have to exert so much effort to get him out. If they make a mistake, he punishes them with a long ball.

Even tougher to replace will be Judge's intangibles. He is the leader of this team, a captain of sorts who embodies what it is to be a Yankee by being an example for the rest of the team.

"I expect his leadership to continue, to a degree," Boone said. "You know, it's undeniable arguing, I mean this is one of the greatest players in the sport, you know, all-around player, what he brings defensively, how he runs the bases, obviously what he is offensively. so you miss that, that's huge. He'll continue to influence his teammates like he does and we'll continue to expect that from him."

The Yankees are already making due without left fielder Giancarlo Stanton, center fielder Aaron Hicks, catcher Gary Sanchez, first baseman Greg Bird, shortstops Didi Gregorius and Troy Tulowitzki, third baseman Miguel Andujar, starting pitcher Luis Severino, and reliever Dellin Betances.

The Yankees have been able to win games because they had replacements lined up ready to go for all of those players, with DJ LeMahieu, Brett Gardner, and Clint Frazier stepping up recently.

Boone said of writing the lineup out on Sunday without Judge, "I wrote out the lineup today and I feel like it's balanced, feel like it's capable, look forward to those guys going out and producing, and I really do feel that way. Look, hate not writing Judgie in there, but feel like the lineup we're putting out there today is capable of putting some points on the board."

On if there were anything that would make him not optimistic about his team when putting the lineup together, Boone said, "Yeah, if we weren't any good, but we've got good players in that room and I think the proof has been in the pudding. The guys that have been pressed into more regular roles than certainly any of us expected at this point have been productive and have shown to be good players, and some of our young players that have very bright futures have stepped up and performed at a really high level. There is a point I wouldn't feel as optimistic, but when I look at our lineup today, I expect them to go out and do some damage."

Judge missed a lot of time in the second half of last season after he got hit by a pitch in the first inning of a game against, ironically, Kansas City, on July 26, 2018. He did not return until mid-September and missed 45 games, in which the Yankees went 25-20.

Boone said of the Yankees being ready to cover for Judge's absence, "I've been in this game long enough, adversity is a reality, and it's going to come in different shapes and sizes and forms throughout the course of a season and you never really know. You've got to be able to deal with it and roll with it, and I feel like our club, our organization more than anyone in the game is capable of dealing with these adversities,and I feel like we have, we will, and the expectation doesn't change. We expect to go out and win games."

The Yankees also called up infielder Thairo Estrada Estrada from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because he is the only healthy player at that level on the Yankees' 40-man roster.
Estrada be their fourth outfielder, since Judge's injury leaves them with just Gardner, Frazier, and Mike Tauchman out there.
The 23-year old from Venezuela, was originally signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent on August 2, 2012, will wear number 30.
Estrada hit .286 (8-28) with 0 home runs, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored, 1 double, 4 walks, and 9 strikeouts in 17 spring training games.
Boone said of Estrada earlier this season about his spring training, "Good, good, I mean, excited about, especially after last year, with missing as much time as he did (two stints on the minor league disabled list in 2018, 4/6-18 and 5/8-9/24), he's a guy that we feel like is going to be a good player and has made a lot of strides and did really good in the spring."
Last season, Estrada was limited to 18 games last season with Single-A Tampa and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, combining to hit .192 (15-78) with 3 doubles, 8 RBI, and 5 runs scored.
Following the season, he played for the Arizona Fall League's Glendale Desert Dogs, batting .238 (19-80), with 2 doubles, 7 RBI, and 9 runs scored in 19 games.
In 2017, Estrada spent the entire season with Double-A Trenton, batting .301 (149-for-495) with 6 home runs, 48 RBI, 72 runs scored, 19 doubles, and 4 triples in 122 games. At 21 years and two months, was the seventh-youngest player to make a 2017 Opening Day roster in the Eastern League.
Estrada was named to the Eastern League Mid-Season and Postseason All-Star teams.
In the 2017 Arizona Fall League, he played for Scottsdale and hit .342 (27-for-79), with 1 home run, 10 RBI, 13 runs scored, 2 doubles, and 1 triple. He was named to the league's Fall Stars Game and the AFL's 2017 Top Prospects Team.
Baseball America named him the Yankees' No. 9 prospect following the season, and he was added to the Yankees' 40-man roster on November 20, 2017.

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