Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib, manager Aaron Boone told reporters on Friday. The team is opting for two full weeks of rest, but surgery is not completely out as an option just yet.
The news comes just a day after Judge told reporters he was hopeful of playing on Opening Day. It's likely that this injury will keep him out of the lineup for the start of the regular season. In the meantime, the Yankees will have to rely on Clint Frazier, Mike Tauchman and Brett Gardner for their starting outfield.
"Hopefully we'll reassess in two weeks where he's at, and then hopefully have an idea of what that looks like," Boone told reporters, including MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. "You could do surgery at some point to remove the rib, so I wouldn't say that's off the table but you wouldn't want to go do that right now especially if the bone is healing."
Judge, 27, had been slowed down this spring training due to concerns about his shoulder and pectoral muscle before the club finally determined that it is a stress fracture that's ailing him. He first noticed the pain back in January while taking batting practice before the official start of spring training.
After resting, the injury and subsequent pain reappeared again. In regards to the previous uncertainty surrounding Judge's injury, Boone explained to reporters the complicated process of trying to find this type of injury: "He ended up going through 10, 12, 11 different tests and my understanding is, it's a hard thing to find because you're not going to find it in MRIs or different scans."
Boone referenced Judge's diving attempt to catch a fly ball back in September 2019, where he jammed his right shoulder into the turf field at Angel Stadium, as the possible cause for the rib fracture. It was not diagnosed at the time of his dive, and Judge continued to play in remainder of regular season and the playoffs.
"It's probably an injury that dates back to September  when he dove -- we, think. It shows signs of healing so we're going to give it the next couple of weeks and then we'll re-test to show how much healing is going on with that rib, when we do the CT scan again."
Over the last two seasons, the 2017 American League Rookie of the Year has averaged 107 games, missing significant time due to injury. In 2019, he was limited to 102 games due to a severe oblique strain, hitting .272/.381/.540 with 27 home runs and 55 RBI. He was held to 112 games in 2018 after he was hit by a pitch that fractured his right wrist. Judge will enter the 2020 season with a career .273/.394/.558 (151 OPS+) batting line and with 110 home runs in 1,417 at-bats.
Judge isn't the only Yankees player already set to miss time during the 2020 season. Fellow outfielders Giancarlo Stanton (strained calf) and Aaron Hicks (Tommy John surgery) are also expected to miss Opening Day while lefty James Paxton (back surgery) is out for at least a month and right-hander Luis Severino is done for the season following Tommy John surgery.
Last season, the Yankees set a record for the number of players who spent time on the injured list. Despite the Yankees training and strength/conditioning departments undergoing an overhaul this offseason, the club seemingly can't escape bad luck when it comes to injuries. And as our own Dayn Perry has noted, health is an X factor for the 2020 Yankees.