BALTIMORE (AP) — The New York Yankees have been a sub-.500 team since Aaron Judge injured his toe in early June. Now they hope his return can help them rally for a postseason spot.

The Yankees reinstated Judge from the injured list Friday before the opener of their weekend road series against the Baltimore Orioles. Judge admits he isn’t fully recovered but says he’s healthy enough to play.

“It’s feeling all right, feeling good. It’s not 100%. I don’t think it’ll be 100% until the end of the year,” he said. “I think our biggest goal is just getting to a point where I could play, I could tolerate it.”

The Yankees lost 1-0 to the Orioles on Anthony Santander’s ninth-inning homer. Judge lined out to right field on the first pitch he saw in the top of the first. Then he walked his next three times up.

Judge had been out since tearing a ligament in his right big toe June 3 when he crashed into the right-field fence while making a catch at Dodger Stadium. In the eighth inning Friday, he appeared to foul a pitch off his foot, but it was his left one.

Judge played a simulated game Wednesday at the team’s complex in Tampa, Florida, and returned to New York after that. The 2022 American League MVP faced live pitching Sunday at Yankee Stadium for the first time since the injury. Manager Aaron Boone said Judge homered during a simulated game Tuesday in Florida. He also played the field and ran the bases.

Judge was penciled into the lineup as the designated hitter, batting second Friday night. Boone said he could have potentially played in the field, but that will be a day-by-day decision.

“Obviously, as much as there’s urgency for us, we’ve got to be smart about that and make sure that in talking to Aaron, making sure he’s honest with his feedback about how he’s recovering, how he’s bouncing back,” Boone said. “Obviously, how the toe’s doing, but how everything else is doing.”

New York was 19-23 since Judge got hurt in Los Angeles. After Friday’s loss, the Yankees are 30-20 with the star outfielder, who also missed 10 games earlier this season with a right hip strain.

Judge set an AL record with 62 home runs last year. He is batting .290 with 19 homers and 40 RBIs in the first season of a $360 million, nine-year contract he signed last offseason.

“I guess he’s back and he’s ready,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said before the game. “So we’ll have to pitch to him well.”

Baltimore has a 1 1/2-game lead in the AL East over Tampa Bay. The Yankees are five games over .500 but at the bottom of the ultracompetitive division. New York is nine games behind the Orioles and 3 1/2 behind the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros for the American League’s final two wild cards.

Judge was asked if the team’s offensive struggles without him made him even more anxious to come back.

“No, I just wanted to get back,” Judge said after a noticeable pause. “Any time you’re sitting out, even if we were winning and we had an eight-game lead in the division, or we were 10 games out of it, I want to be back out there battling with the guys.”

Boone said Judge had an MRI in the last few days, and Judge indicated that was a factor in his return.

“I didn’t want to come back and make it worse, and this is something that leads into the next year and the following year,” he said. “Ligament’s stable. Last couple MRIs didn’t really show much healing, but this one did.”

To make room for Judge, the Yankees optioned infielder Oswald Peraza to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.


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