Afternoon showers in the Bronx were just what Aaron Judge needed to get back into the New York Yankees’ lineup.
For Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts, it was just the opposite.
Judge was set to play and Betts to sit out when the Yankees and Red Sox opened a three-game series Tuesday night. The game was pushed back six hours to 7:05 p.m. because of rain in the forecast.
The delay allowed Judge to break into manager Aaron Boone’s lineup for the first time since breaking his right wrist on July 26. Boone slotted Judge to bat second and play right field, but only because the late start gave him and the front office a few extra hours to evaluate Judge.
“We want to start that clock of getting in there and playing and getting him those ABs,” Boone said. “So he can find that timing sooner rather than later. Physically he’s good to go.”
Manager Alex Cora wrote Betts in as his center fielder as of 9 a.m., even after the AL MVP contender injured his left side Sunday. But then the conditions turned soggy.
“He’s doing OK,” Cora said. “The weather kind of like pushed me to not play him.”
Judge was injured when hit by a pitch. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year was activated Friday and played two innings in right field that night without going to the plate. Judge has said his wrist no longer bothers him while swinging a bat, but he has been experiencing discomfort on more routine movements.
He had 11 at-bats in a simulated game Monday and lofted an opposite-field homer to right during a series of simulated plate appearances against Yankees minor leaguer Adonis Rosa on Tuesday morning.
Judge was late on some fastballs and had a number of swings and misses against Rosa, who struck out 108 over 128 1/3 innings across three minor league levels this season. A large contingent of Yankees personnel watched the session, including Boone and general manager Brian Cashman.
Judge’s workload will be monitored closely down the stretch, with New York eager to get him at-bats before likely playing in the AL wild-card game.
“Hopefully, it clicks for him pretty quickly,” Boone said. “I would say physically he’s in a really good place. Physically he’s really strong. So it’s just a matter of getting that good timing and that’s something that even for great hitters can come and go a little bit, so we’ll see as the next couple of days unfold.”
Boston leads the Yankees by 11½ games and can clinch the AL East with a win Tuesday. Cora can be cautious with Betts because the Red Sox have by far baseball‘s best record, but Betts prefers consistent at-bats to stay sharp. He’s also making a push for his first MVP award with an AL-best .337 batting average.
“I know he’s close to doing a few things that are very special in this game,” Cora said. “But like I’ve been saying, he’s a small guy, not as big as some other ones, and we need him to be close to 100 percent.”
The Yankees also plan to activate closer Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday or Thursday. The left-hander is working back from left knee tendinitis. He said he felt strong after throwing 22 pitches in a simulated game Monday.
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