Yankees’ Aaron Judge back from COVID-19 list as Luke Voit nears return

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Aaron Judge returned to the Yankees’ lineup Tuesday against the Rays after missing nine games while on the COVID-19 injured list.

“It’s huge, obviously,’’ Aaron Boone said of getting Judge back before the Yankees opened their series against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Judge, Kyle Higashioka and Luke Voit all took batting practice at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on Monday.

Judge and Higashioka were activated off the COVID IL Tuesday, and Boone said Voit, who has been on the IL with left knee inflammation, isn’t far behind.

“I would say very close,’’ Boone said when asked of Voit’s status. “We’ll have a decision in the next day or so if he’s potentially back for this series [against Tampa Bay]. Miami, for sure.”

That would make the lineup pretty close to whole by Friday, as Voit ran the bases Tuesday. He may need to get some live at-bats, which he could get with the team’s Florida Complex League team in Tampa on Thursday.

Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge

For players like Voit and Gleyber Torres — and to a lesser extent Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez — who won’t be able to get to their typical offensive numbers this season due to injuries, poor performance or both, Boone said he’s not worried about them trying to do too much.

“The really good thing about this group is … it’s about winning,’’ Boone said. “We understand we’re at the point of the season where we’re a little behind the eight-ball. It’s all about winning.”

As of Tuesday, the Yankees had yet to make a significant addition with Friday afternoon’s trade deadline approaching.

For now, they’re banking on Judge picking up where he left off before the All-Star break and Voit shaking off what was a dismal first half, when he was impacted by injuries and ineffectiveness.

Voit underwent surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee during spring training and was then out with a strained oblique before his current left knee inflammation.

Even when healthy enough to be on the field, Voit has struggled, with just three homers a year after leading the majors with 22 in last year’s COVID-shortened 60-game schedule.

The lack of power from Voit and others has been among the reasons the Yankees’ offense has been inept at times this year.

On Tuesday, even with Judge back in the fold, the Yankees started journeymen Ryan LaMarre and Greg Allen in a key game.

Judge, though, changes the dynamics of the entire lineup, leading the team in virtually every offensive category.

He’s had trouble playing on the hard turf at Tropicana Field over the years, so it remains to be seen if he starts all three games of this series in right field.

But after losing three of four to the Red Sox in Fenway Park over the weekend and facing a Rays team that just acquired slugger Nelson Cruz from Minnesota, the Yankees are counting on Judge — and, later, Voit — to potentially save their season.

Boone said Tuesday he’s seen some encouraging signs from other players, pointing to Torres’ recent resurgence, but overall, the offense is far off what the team expected it to be prior to the season.

New York Post

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