TAMPA — In a perfect world, Aaron Judge would have enough time to be ready for Opening Day.
However, the third and fourth words of that lede don’t apply to the Yankees when it comes to health.
One season removed from wearing out the injured list with 39 moves, the Yankees already have lost Luis Severino for the season because of Tommy John surgery, might be without James Paxton until at least May due to back surgery, shut down Giancarlo Stanton with a Grade 1 right calf strain and haven’t seen Judge progress to taking batting practice on the field. He was swinging against coach-pitching indoors until the problem returned this past weekend.
Judge was scheduled for tests on Monday that the Yankees hoped would discover the reason the right fielder was feeling discomfort in the right shoulder/pectoral muscle area for a second time since he arrived in Florida before spring training officially started. According to Aaron Boone, an MRI on Saturday was negative but further tests were scheduled for Monday. The Yankees didn’t discuss the results of the tests.
So, it is a possibility the Yankees won’t have Judge and Stanton in the lineup when the Yankees start their season in Baltimore on March 26.
When Stanton was shut down, Boone said the Yankees would be “up against it’’ when asked about the left fielder/DH being ready for Opening Day.
Which brings us to Clint Frazier getting a chance to cash in on a fast start to the exhibition schedule. There are several possibilities for the 25-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder. He could form a platoon with Mike Tauchman in left with Judge in right. Or, Frazier could be the left fielder with Tauchman in right instead of Judge.
Either way, the Yankees would be depending on Frazier more than ever and what he has done in five spring training games (3-for-10, one homer, two RBIs and no strikeouts) is encouraging.
“He looks better. The plate discipline is there and it’s a lot of fastballs right now so it’s too early for a true read,’’ a talent evaluator said of Frazier, who has looked more comfortable at the plate and in the outfield than last season, when he was streaky at the plate and shaky in the field.
Thirteen days into camp, Frazier has blended into the Yankees’ fabric by not drawing attention to himself except for his performance on the field. A mop of red hair was a lightning rod during his first year of camp. Last year, it was shoes. None of that has been on display this spring.
“I think he knows he needs to grow up,’’ the scout said.
Another scout noticed Frazier’s lower half is more stable at the plate and he appears to have gotten stronger without losing athleticism. The defense also has improved.
Frazier, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Indians, hit .267 with 12 homer, 38 RBIs and a .806 OPS in 69 games last season.
Of course, the Yankees are a better team with Stanton and Judge at the corner outfield spots. Yet, recent history shows they have had difficulty staying on the field.
Stanton, who played in 158 games in 2018 (his first season with the Yankees) was limited to 18 a year ago with various injuries.
Judge played in 155 games in 2017 when he hit 52 homers, drove in 114 runs and was the AL Rookie of the Year, while also finishing second to Houston’s Jose Altuve in the AL MVP voting. In the past two seasons, Judge has played in a combined 214 games, an average of 107 each year.