Yankees Notebook: Aaron Judge still has hurdles to clear

ANAHEIM — Aaron Boone used the word “close” to describe Aaron Judge on Tuesday, but there’s still no set target date for the slugger’s return from a torn ligament in his right big toe.

“Whether that’s days from now or weeks from now, I can’t answer that because we got to get through those final hurdles where he can really do things that allow him to play in the major leagues,” Boone said.

Boone said that Judge’s next immediate steps involve aspects of running, such as cutting, stopping and starting. The manager also wants to see Judge “get after it” during live hitting. Judge has said that running at full speed is one of the biggest obstacles he needs to clear.

“He’s running pretty well,” Boone said. “But it’s one thing to run straight ahead. It’s another thing to be cutting and stopping and starting, and the unexpected things that happen when you’re in the midst of a game. And then also, being able to be at a really high level in the box. It’s one thing to be taking BP and getting your swing off. It’s another thing to be in a game and taking a difficult pitch and holding the check swing and all those things that you need to kind of be in a real comfortable spot to do.”

Boone also believes that Judge, out since June 3, will be able to play the outfield upon his return. However, the skipper noted that those early days will likely involve more time at designated hitter than Judge is normally accustomed to.

With that said, Boone more or less expects the reigning MVP to be his usual self once he’s cleared for action.

“I’ll know that he feels like he can be the player he needs to be for us,” Boone said. “So whether that’s 90 percent, 95, 100, whatever, I don’t know. We’re not at that point yet, so we’ll see.”

The trade deadline is approaching on Aug. 1, but Boone said that he hasn’t talked to Brian Cashman about it much to this point.

The Yankees could seriously use a bat or two. When asked if Boone felt that way, he replied, “Hopefully Aaron [Judge] is a pretty good bat to add at some point here.”

Boone also mentioned Jake Bauers and Greg Allen, both on the injured list, as “pieces to the puzzle.” The manager then noted that the Yankees have several incumbents who have struggled for long stretches this season.

“Get them going, then all of a sudden, it can look a lot different,” Boone said.

Boone typically defends and focuses on the players he has, so his comments don’t mean the Yankees will stand pat before the deadline.

Aside from a two-run double from Oswaldo Cabrera, the Yankees’ offense didn’t have much to write home about on Monday.

The team stranded 10, went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and struck out 17 times in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Angels. Halos starter Griffin Canning accounted for 12 of those strikeouts, setting a career-high against a lineup that has sputtered without Judge.

However, one bright spot for the Yankees was Oswald Peraza, who found himself batting leadoff after being recalled over the weekend. While the 22-year-old got picked off after his first plate appearance, he reached base five times with a single and four walks. He also scored a run.

“Impressive, even to myself,” said Peraza, who led off again Tuesday. “I think that’s the first time that I’m able to reach base five times in a game.”

Peraza took the place of the injured Josh Donaldson, who hasn’t reached base four times in a game all season. However, Peraza wasn’t some walking machine in the minors, as he’s only drawn 20 free passes over 216 plate appearances at Triple-A.

When asked what he thought of Peraza’s eye overall, Boone said it’s “something that’s a work in progress and we feel like has the potential to be a little bit better.”

Peraza said that he worked on his discipline at Triple-A knowing it could help him at the plate.

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“Especially when you’re seeing pitches close to the zone but not in the strike zone,” he said. “If I’m able to take those pitches, it just gives me a better chance.”

Peraza also said that losing the Yankees’ spring training shortstop battle to Anthony Volpe aided his development. The infielder has gotten a chance to learn third and second base while also improving as a hitter.

“Actually, that helped me out a lot, going down to Triple-A and working on some other things,” Peraza said. “Given that time and the experience to become a better player, I feel that it has allowed me to grow. I feel that I’m a better player today than I was back then.”

After giving up a critical home run to Shohei Ohtani on Monday, Michael King said that he’s been “a little bit off mechanically,” which “correlates directly to confidence.”

King added that his rotation had been off, which led to a decrease in velocity. He’s been able to get that back, but his command hasn’t been as sharp. He’s allowed 14 earned runs, four homers and nine walks in his last 12 games.

“It’s just kind of learning that new rotation to make sure that I’m in the right spots and that I can consistently deliver pitches in the zones I want to be in,” King said.

The Yankees announced Tuesday that they have signed 17 of their 18 draft picks, including first-round shortstop George Lombard Jr. Fourth-round pick Roc Riggio, a second baseman out of Oklahoma State University, was the only unsigned pick at the time of the announcement.

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