TAMPA — The Yankees finally received a diagnosis for Aaron Judge’s right chest discomfort on Friday. Now they have their fingers firmly crossed the slugging right fielder won’t need need surgery to remove his top right rib, which has a stress fracture that was unearthed by a recent CT scan.
Judge, who suffered the injury diving for a ball on Sept. 18 and didn’t play the following game, underwent an MRI exam that didn’t uncover the problem, and had his discomfort treated with an injection. He will undergo another CT scan in two weeks to see if the rib is healing. Estimates range from three to six months for a rib stress fracture to heal. The injury happened six-plus months ago, however, so that timetable has a variable.
And if surgery is required?
“We will reassess in two weeks where he is at as far as the bone healing and hopefully have an idea of what that looks like,’’ Aaron Boone said before the Yankees played the Orioles on Friday night at Steinbrenner Field. “You could do surgery at some point to remove the rib. I wouldn’t say that is off the table. You wouldn’t want to do that right now, especially if the bone is healing.’’
Because the fracture is healing, Judge is optimistic he can avoid surgery.
“They brought it up, but the fact that the bone is healing and progressing the right way, there is no need to go down that route,’’ Judge said. “If it wasn’t healing and wasn’t going the way we want it to go then [surgery] is possible.’’
Judge went through his offseason program and arrived in Florida before camp opened. He was hitting at the minor league complex when his right shoulder and pectoral area began barking. He had double-digit tests, which didn’t find the root of the problem.
“My understanding is it is a hard thing to find because you are not going to find it in MRIs or different scans,’’ Boone said. “He had MRIs, CT scans, bone scans and X-rays. There was this particular CT scan that ultimately found it. For whatever reason, it is an injury that is difficult to spot in the normal battery of tests.
“Assuming it was September when it happened, he was obviously able to finish the season and play through it dealing with the shoulder,’’ Boone said of Judge, who earlier last season missed 54 games with an oblique injury he suffered in late April. A chip fracture of his right wrist cost him 45 games in 2018. “He continued to play through it dealing with the shoulder with the uncertainty of what exactly it was. He went into the offseason thinking rest would handle it and he was able to do all of his normal workouts in the winter, his throwing and hitting. As he got down here and started ramping up, especially with the hitting side of it, it got to a point where he decided to get some answers.’’
The answer has arrived, but the frustration of going through multiple tests without a resolution hasn’t subsided.
“At least we have answer and can start working on the solution, but overall I’m just mad,’’ Judge said. “We have a good team here. We have a lot of goals for 2020. I want to be out there but first we have to get this healed.’’
Boone refused to say Judge would not be ready for Opening Day, on March 26 in Baltimore. Surgery, however, likely would force Judge to miss a big slice of the regular season.
“I am not sure on that surgery,’’ Boone said about how long Judge would be out if surgery were required.
“I’d like to be ready for Opening Day, but they kind of shut that down for now,’’ Judge said.
Had Judge known he had a stress fracture of a rib, he would have cut short the offseason workouts that were designed to hone some changes.
“Swinging and lifting during the offseason really didn’t give it a chance [to heal]. I was pissed off the way the season ended and [there were] changes I wanted to make and I went right back to it,’’ Judge said. “In my head I thought it was something I could fight through and it cost me.’’
Giancarlo Stanton will not be ready for Opening Day because of a Grade 1 strain of the right calf, so the Yankees might have to start Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier in the corners of the outfield.
“We will handle it as a group. We are made to handle adversity,’’ said Boone, who will be without a number of players for parts of the season: Luis Severino will me the entire season, Aaron Hicks won’t return until at least June, James Paxton hopefully will be back sometime in May and Stanton possibly will be out until sometime in April.
Judge’s history of injuries
After 2017 season: Underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery on left shoulder to remove a loose body and clean up damaged cartilage
2018: Missed 50 games due to a fractured right wrist
2019: Missed 54 games due to a strained left oblique
2020: Has a stress fracture in his rib and will miss at least several weeks