Yankees place Aaron Judge on IL, joining Nestor Cortes in rough week

Yankees Aaron Judge
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, center right, is checked out after catching a fly ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers’ J.D. Martinez during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Saturday, June 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

The Yankees lost 3-2 to the White Sox on Tuesday night, but they perhaps suffered their biggest loss off of the field when they had to put Aaron Judge on the IL with a sprained big toe. 

Judge has been dealing with the injury for a few days since slamming his toe into a concrete barrier while making a spectacular catch last week against the Dodgers. The Yankees had imaging done on him earlier in the week, but his swelling had gone down, so they were waiting until after the game on Tuesday night to make a definitive call on whether or not he would need to head to the injured list. 

Unfortunately, the added rest didn’t work the way they wanted. 

“He is going to go on the IL,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone after Tuesday’s loss. “He’s got a contusion and a sprain of the ligament, so he got a PRP shot tonight… The biggest thing now is trying to get the swelling out of there. Had some improvements today, but, you know, now we just see where we are in the coming weeks or days.”

While Boone did quickly catch himself after saying “weeks” and corrected it to “days,” there is some fear that the Yankees will actually be without the reigning AL MVP for weeks, not just a few days. 

Doctor Jesse Morse, who practices sports medicine and frequently weighs in on sports injuries on Twitter mentions that Judge is likely dealing with something akin to turf toe. According to Dr. Morse, the injury could take up to six weeks to fully heal. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, a grade two turf toe injury would involve a “partial tear of the plantar capsule of the first MTP joint.” Given that a sprain is defined as “a stretching or tearing of ligaments,” a grade two injury would make the most sense when trying to speculate on what Judge suffered. The National Institutes of Health say that, “For these injuries, a period of non-weight-bearing is typically utilized. Normally, grade two injuries result in at least 2 weeks away from the sport.”

Obviously, for Yankees fans, that would be a more tolerable diagnosis than what Dr. Morse is suggesting, but, either way, it seems like the team should expect to be without their star for a couple of weeks.

Which is a big problem. 

Yankees Aaron Judge
New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge (99) hits a home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles, Saturday, June 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

As it stands right now, the Yankees’ offense is 22nd in the league in batting average, 25th in on-base percentage, 18th in strikeout rate, and 15th in OPS. They are also already 7.5 games behind the Rays in the AL East and absolutely cannot afford to lose Judge for too long. 

Amongst Yankees with over 80 plate appearances on the season, Judge ranks first on the team in batting average, home runs, RBIs, runs, slugging percentage, walk rate, Runs Created Plus (wRC+), and Wins Above Replacement (WAR). He’s also 6th in steals. 

It’s a monumental loss and one that is even more troubling since his move to the injured list comes on the same day that the Yankees also had to place starting pitcher Nestor Cortes on the IL as well

Boone was quick to mention that he anticipates that Cortes will only miss a start or two, but considering the Yankees have suffered consistent injuries to their rotation, it’s hard to feel optimistic about that assessment. Luis Severino just recently returned from an injury that kept him out since spring training, and both Frankie Montas and Carlos Rodon have not pitched for the Yankees yet this year.

While there are still 100 games left in the 2023 season, it might not be a stretch to argue that the upcoming 20 or so will be among the most important of the season for the Yankees. If there were to fall behind the Rays by double-digits or even the Orioles for a Wild Card spot, it would create a lot of ground to make up in under half a season. 

Boone has praised the team for being prepared and ready to step up when called upon and now is certainly one of those times. 

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