Aaron Judge
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Aaron Judge was going to be the face of baseball at one point, but now the New York Yankees star is struggling to stay on the field.

Rich Mancuso

“I don’t see him ready for Opening Day because of the time frame.”

On Tuesday, that was the update from Brian Cashman. The New York Yankees GM provided the latest status of Aaron Judge. Patience. The two biggest sluggers of this Yankees team—Judge and Giancarlo Stanton—are on the shelf again.

Judge’s continued discomfort of a right pectoral muscle is the latest setback and is undergoing more tests. Stanton is recovering from a grade one right calf strain and it could be possibly the end of April or sometime in May before he takes the field.

And if anything is different, with Judge and Stanton, make this a headline: By the way, the Yankees will survive. They did last year with an MLB record 31 players coming and going off the injured list.

But the focus is on Aaron Judge, still considered the face of the Yankees. One time, he was the face of Major League Baseball, but recurring injuries keep him off the field.

Perhaps, Aaron Judge, when he burst on the scene in 2017 was the face. That was the year of 52 home runs, then, establishing a rookie single-season home run record that surpassed Mark McGwire.

They said he was the best player in the game because of his height and reach. His arm could not be tested in right field. But, as of today, Judge is in another category.

To be the best player in baseball, or the face of the Yankees, you need to be on the field. And staying on the field and remaining healthy is that recurring issue for Aaron Judge.

This is not to say that Aaron Judge, more than Stanton, will continue to be that face. He is young enough to overcome these injury problems, turning 27 in mid-April.

But that patience is running thin for the Yankees and as a marketing tool, Judge may be slipping. The Judge’s chambers feel a bit outdated, often going unfilled during games, but a close-to-full season on the field would likely change that.

A part of that marketing should involve opening the gates early in the Bronx so fans can see Aaron Judge deposit balls in the outfield seats during batting practice.

What we do know, as of Tuesday, the Yankees are prepared with an early-season contingency plan.

Miguel Andujar is getting looks in left field. Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman, and Brett Gardner are all projected to be in the outfield mix with Stanton also not expected back anytime soon.

“We certainly have a  number of different people that are more than capable,” Cashman said about the Opening Day roster. “Hopefully we’ve got all those choices in play by the time we’re putting lineups together.”

And Yankees fans, manager Aaron Boone, want to see a healthy Aaron Judge in the lineup. They want to see multi-home run games. They would rather see him as the difference-maker.

The 128 runs in 2017, most by a major league rookie since Mike Trout in 2012, that’s what is expected. But, there is one Mike Trout. He avoids the injured list and to many, is that face of baseball.

So what is wrong with Aaron Judge? Ask the baseball experts; the Yankees will only update his medical condition and a projected return as Opening Day closes in.

Too much stress on tight muscles from working out?

“Other than physical training, I’m beginning to think these injuries are akin to pitchers throwing too hard and these guys are always swinging for a 450-foot home run,” said a longtime AL scout.

By the way, that’s a scout who has been around 40 years. He said the game has changed. No surprise because Mickey Mantle and the other great home run hitters of the past had a different training routine.

Judge, as with all ballplayers, has made this a year-round job. Weights and conditioning do play a major role.

“I’d rather be dealing with it right now than having it bleed deep in or cause significant time in-season,” Cashman said.

And he hopes that is also a limited time for Stanton.

Yes, the Yankees will survive this. They will also get by without Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, and James Paxton for a limited time.

But they need the face of their franchise, Aaron Judge. Until further review, when Judge is healthy and injury-free, he is not the face of baseball or the Yankees.

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