OAKLAND, Calif. -- Aaron Judge's return from injury took a big step forward Monday when the New York Yankees right fielder swung a bat for the first time since breaking a bone in his right wrist in late July.
"It's moving in the right direction. It's definitely a big step," Judge said. "We're just excited and kind of on track with what we're going to one day accomplish. So I'm excited for the progress we're making so far."
Judge, who has been on the disabled list since suffering a chip fracture of the right wrist when he was hit by a 94 mph fastball July 26, took 50 total swings in the center-field batting cages at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Some two hours before the Yankees played the Athletics, he took 25 dry swings without hitting a ball, and then another 25 off a tee with a ball.
He was swinging with full, 100 percent max effort. Even swinging that way, Judge was comforted in not feeling any pain while swinging.
"I was feeling good," said Judge, who grew up about 70 miles from Oakland and has family and friends visiting for this series. "I tried to just do my normal routine. I didn't want to take anything at 50 percent. It felt great. I took some quality hacks. We'll see how it feels in the morning."
Before Monday's work, Judge had in recent weeks taken swings underwater without a bat. He also had taken a few swings with fungoes and other lightweight bats. But this was the first time he actually swung with his traditional weighted bat.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone has been encouraged with Judge's progress in recent days after ramping up his throwing outdoors over the weekend to Monday's activities.
"We definitely feel like he's starting to build some momentum for him to swing and hit off a tee, and for it to go really well is obviously a great sign," Boone said. "I know he's pleased with it, and just starting to build momentum toward getting back. So [Monday] was a very good day of progress."
The Yankees originally outlined a three-week return for Judge. At the time, they also believed that Judge would get to swing again after about a week into that recovery period. He had a cortisone shot three weeks ago. Now more than five weeks since the injury, the Yankees are no longer in the practice of updating timelines on Judge's comeback.
Still, they do contend that as long as Judge continues to make improvements with his swinging and wrist range of motion and has no setbacks, it may not be long before a more firm timeline starts taking shape.
"Once we get through this weekend, and if he continues to graduate, then you start really thinking about a possible timeline about maybe getting back," Boone said.
From here, Judge will continue building up his dry swings and tee swings. Soon after, he'll begin taking soft toss and working his way up to live batting practice in the cages, and then live batting practice on the field.
By that point, the Yankees will have to get creative with the rehab process. With the minor league regular season now over, he won't be able to play in rehab games in the farm system. The Yankees may have to set up simulated game scenarios or send him to their facility in Tampa to work with minor leaguers who are around the complex there.
"Hopefully before the season's over with, I'll be in some games," Judge said.
Whenever Judge is able to return, Boone said he won't be easing his 26-year-old star into action in the field. He will have an occasional role as a designated hitter like he did before the injury, but otherwise, the plan will be for Judge to get back regularly into right field.
"Once he gets back, he's a full-bore, Aaron Judge player," Boone said.