Yankees' Aaron Judge takes batting practice, but pain in wrist continues

MINNEAPOLIS -- Even as he says the pain in his injured right wrist persists, New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge continues to make strides in his recovery.

The days when he'll be back in pinstripes appear to finally be drawing a little closer.

About five hours before Monday night's series opener at Target Field between the Yankees and Minnesota Twins, Judge was in the outdoor cage taking live batting practice. It was the first time he had faced live pitching of any kind on a field since he suffered a chip fracture in his right wrist against the Kansas City Royals on July 26.

"Kind of a typical Aaron Judge BP, putting on a show," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "It went really well."

Added Judge, who spoke following the Yankees' 7-2 win: "I'm just happy to be outside hitting. It's one step closer, and excited for the progress we're making."

During his five rounds of batting practice, Judge launched several home runs, including a pair of towering shots that cleared the batter's eye in center field. He also hit another a few feet shy of the third deck in left field.

"It's fun watching Aaron Judge take batting practice. So that's nice," Boone said, smiling. "But obviously, you understand it's another step in the progression, so you do get excited when you see one of your best players working his way back in hopefully what was a big step in him getting back to us toward the end of the season."

Boone still doesn't have a firm timetable for when Judge will return, and Judge didn't want to outline one, saying, "When I'm out there, I'm out there."

Both remain pleased with the strides the outfielder has made.

While speaking to reporters in Seattle following the Yankees' loss Sunday to the Mariners, Judge said he has been confident that his wrist will heal in time for him to come back this season.

"I was confident from when it first happened," Judge said. "I knew I was going to be back in plenty of time and be back in some meaningful games down the stretch here."

Since being hit nearly six weeks ago by Kansas City's Jakob Junis with a 94 mph fastball, Judge has been slowly recovering. Originally, the Yankees outlined an approximate three-week DL stint for him.

It was during his session with reporters in Seattle that Judge said he remained nagged by the pain in his wrist.

"The pain's not gone," he said. Judge added that although his wrist has been feeling better, the pain was still at about the same level it had been about two weeks ago.

Asked about those comments Monday, Boone said he believed them to be a little exaggerated, considering what he has witnessed from Judge as the slugger has warmed up and loosened up the past couple of days.

"[The pain] is pretty much out of there," Boone said.

Prior to Monday's hitting showcase, Judge spent the past week easing toward it. He went from taking dry swings last Monday to hitting off a tee to taking soft toss from about 25 feet away in an interior cage to taking soft toss on a field to this most recent live session from a pitcher's arm.

"I just want him to continue to be able to bounce back, and as we add volume to his days, how he handles that and how he bounces back from that will be a big factor with him going forward," Boone said.

The manager said it was still too early to determine whether the Yankees will be able to get Judge into rehab games with affiliate Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which is playing this week in the International League championship series. If rehab games with the RailRiders aren't a possibility, the Yankees have other options, Boone said.

"If and when that time comes, he may be able to go get simulated at-bats in Tampa if we decide that route," Boone said, referring to work at the Yankees' spring training complex. "But we just want to get through these next couple days where he starts ramping up the amount of swings out on the field and continues to build up that momentum."

Judge likely won't take live batting practice Tuesday. As a team, the Yankees aren't holding batting practice following Monday's nearly four-hour game that came a day after flying from the West Coast.

It's still possible, if the Yankees take batting practice Wednesday, that he will hit in the regular pregame window two hours before that game.