Aaron Judge is still working hard to recover from the rib stress fracture he suffered last season. It's been a long process, with GM Brian Cashman saying this week Judge may not be fully healed from it until "summertime."
The Yankees obviously love Judge, being that he is the face of the franchise at the moment. He projects to be a perennial All-Star -- if he stays on the field. He's missed over 100 games in the last two seasons, which begs the question of whether or not these injuries will continue to bother him throughout his career.
Paul O'Neill, who knows a thing or two about playing in right field at Yankee Stadium, believes Judge's massive size makes it hard not to get injured when he does run into the wall or dive, which is what caused his injury.
"I mean you look at Aaron Judge, he's a specimen. There's no doubt about it," he said on WFAN's "Moose and Maggie" show on Tuesday. "He's not your normal-sized baseball player. So when he dives and he hits, you end up breaking -- rib injuries or things like that, hitting a wall, those things are going to happen through the course of your career. Obviously, part of being a superstar is being able to take the field day in and day out."
That's why O'Neill views 2020 -- whenever the season kicks off -- as a crucial one for Judge. He needs to prove that he is first back healthy, but can stay that way because it hasn't just been this one injury. Judge has dealt with shoulder issues, which was the root of the problem at first in spring training,. And he suffered from an oblique strain and wrist fracture in the past, too.
"I think it's a big year for him, once he gets over this injury, to get through even if it's a half-season," O'Neill said. "Get the fans knowing that when they go to the ballpark, he's in the lineup."
The Yankees battled many injuries last season, and they couldn't seem to catch a break. Setting an MLB record in total players spending time on the IL in one season is no feat a team wants to accomplish, but the Bombers managed to do it and still dominate.
Play currently being suspended is helping some like Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and James Paxton work their way back without the stress of watching games go by. But will the injury bug be an issue again for New York? Is there a way to prevent a chunk of the team getting hurt?
O'Neill thinks modernized training methods plays some part in players, not just the Yankees, getting hurt each year.
"I've thought about that a lot and I've heard that question a lot, and the biggest thing in the old days was train for the duration of the season, how long it was," he said when asked why these injuries continued for the Yankees last season. "It's almost now like the training has got to the point of so strong, so quick. It's all about strength and speed to the point where you're not even training athletes in my mind to play 162 games. I don't think anyone's expected to do that anymore."
O'Neill said that during his playing days, you showed up to the ballpark expecting to play. Today, off-days are implemented into each player's workload to prevent such injuries from happening. Still, that didn't seem to work for New York.
That's why there will be a close eye on the Yankees and their injuries this season. They will hope not to endure what they did throughout 2019. And that includes the situation going on with one of their best players in Judge.
Whenever he does return, the hope is it will be for a very long time instead of a short while before another nagging injury pops up. Judge is too vital to the Yankees' future, so staying on the field and making an impact throughout the seasons to come is paramount.
"Aaron Judge is an all-around great athlete and good player," he said. "He's not just the guy that hits the 500-foot home run."