BALTIMORE — Aaron Judge’s reappearance with the Yankees was a quick one Thursday.
Judge, held out of the lineup again with lower-body soreness, pinch hit in the top of the eighth inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Orioles — and struck out on three pitches.
Judge hasn’t started since leaving Tuesday’s victory, but after Gio Urshela opened the eighth with a walk, Aaron Boone went to Judge against left-hander Paul Fry.
“I wanted him in that situation,’’ Boone said of Judge pinch hitting for the lefty-swinging Rougned Odor. “That’s the game right there, a leverage spot. It’s kind of the matchup I envisioned.”
Despite the result, Boone thought the at-bat was “fine.”
“Fry got him to chase with two strikes,’’ Boone said. “That’s gonna happen.”
Judge didn’t play the field, but is expected to start Friday in The Bronx, when the Yankees host the Tigers.
While Judge hasn’t been in the starting lineup in consecutive games twice already this season — once with left-side soreness and now with a more vague injury — Boone said he still expects him to play “140, 145, 150” games this season.
Boone pointed to the fact Thursday was a day game following a night game and he’s “eyeing having him back in there full bore [Friday].”
“We’re playing the long game,’’ the manager said of the organization’s cautious strategy. “We want our best players able to post as much as possible and we’re trying to be proactive … as opposed to reactive something, with something getting out of hand.”
The fact it’s not clear exactly what’s bothering Judge makes his absence more mysterious, especially after Boone said Wednesday he’d hoped to have the right fielder back Thursday.
“In regards to [Wednesday], it is vague because it is nonspecific,’’ Boone said. “Aaron and I have a really good dialogue. We’re pretty honest and direct with each other.”
Judge blamed the side injury on taking too many swings working in the cage while he was serving as a DH earlier this month.
Last year, Judge had two stints on the IL with a strained calf.
Asked why fans shouldn’t “panic” with Judge being out, Boone said, “I’d say we’re at the end of April here. I know around Aaron and Giancarlo [Stanton], there’s always a lot of talk, understandably so. They’re great players for us and our sport and have had their share of missed time the last couple years. Both guys have played a lot in April and we want to continue that.”
But it seems unrealistic to believe Judge will play the number of games both he and Boone have said they expect, considering Judge’s injury history that cost him significant chunks of the previous three seasons.
“He’s as tough as they come,’’ Boone said. “He wants to play. He understands, more so than ever, this is about posting over the long haul 140-145, 150 times. That’s what we’re eyeing. April is the time of the season when guys do come up nagging.”
The Yankees are also in the midst of a 13-day stretch with one day off.
“I expect him to be a regular for us throughout the year,’’ Boone said. “We’ll pick our spots to get him off his feet to preserve that as best we can.”
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