Will Aaron Judge play on Opening Day? Injury timeline, return date, latest updates on Yankees slugger

After weeks of speculation, Aaron Judge’s lingering injury has finally been identified as a stress fracture in his first right rib. Yankees manager Aaron Boone provided the update to reporters Friday.

Judge has been must-watch baseball ever since he homered in his first MLB at-bat in August 2016 —​ when he has been able to stay on the field, that is. Judge played 155 games in his first full MLB season in 2017, but in each of the past two years the towering right fielder has missed significant time.

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In 2018, a pitch broke Judge’s right wrist. The original timetable for recovery was three weeks, but he ended up missing two months. Last April, Judge suffered an oblique strain and was again sidelined for two months. Many speculated the slugger wasn’t at 100 percent when he returned from the injury, though he finished the season with a .272/.381/.540 slash line, 27 home runs and 55 RBIs in 378 at-bats (that’s a 162-game projection of 43 homers and 87 RBIs).

“I’m pretty frustrated with it,” Judge told reporters Thursday, per SI.com. “I want to be out there with my team battling and supporting them on the field. Hopefully that’s why we’re talking to a lot of doctors, trying to get some answers.”

There’s no question Judge, 27, is one of the best in the game when he’s healthy, but avoiding the injured list has been his biggest challenge.

Here’s everything you need to know about Judge’s current injury situation:

How long will Aaron Judge be out?

Boone told reporters (per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch) that the plan is to rest Judge for two weeks and then reevaluate at that point. That puts his return at March 20 in a best-case scenario, just six days before the Yankees face the Orioles on Opening Day.

Surgery to remove the rib could be an option if the injury doesn’t get any better. The general timetable for a rib stress fracture to heal is four to six weeks, according to sportsmd.com, but if it doesn’t heal properly and becomes a full fracture, then recovery could take six to 12 months.

Aaron Judge injury timeline

Boone said he believed the injury dated to a dive Judge made in the outfield in September 2019. That was six months ago.

Judge’s injury became public on Feb. 19 ​when he missed batting practice at spring training because of right shoulder soreness. “I just felt a little soreness up in my shoulder, nothing alarming, nothing where I was like, ‘Hey, we need to really check this out,'” Judge said at the time. He was shut down from hitting for one week.

On Feb. 29, ​Boone told YES Network that Judge was undergoing several tests but none were conclusive, and that more tests were to be done March 2.

On March 6​, Boone addressed the media and updated them with the diagnosis: a stress fracture in Judge’s first right rib.

Also on March 6, Judge told reporters (per Newsday’s Erik Boland) that he first felt pain in November but thought he would be OK for spring training.

Aaron Judge injury updates

— March 6: ​Judge is diagnosed with a stress fracture in his first right rib and will be sidelined for two weeks before being reevaluated. Surgery is not off the table.

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