Yankees' Judge nearing return, Gardner to see role change
Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Look out, the New York Yankees are getting healthy, and it will see players fall down the pecking order.

Outfielder Aaron Judge is close to a return and could be activated ahead of Friday's game against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium, according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.

"It's certainly possible," manager Aaron Boone said.

The slugger hit a massive home run during a rehab game on Tuesday and says he's eager to get back to the bigs.

"I've been ready," Judge said. "It's just about getting the reps in and making sure this thing stays healthy and I have no issues. And there haven't been any issues, so I'm ready to go. But those guys are rolling up there, so I don't know if I can crack that lineup. We'll see."

When Judge gets the call, outfielder Brett Gardner is expected to assume the role of fourth outfielder. With newly acquired Edwin Encarnacion ensconced at designated hitter and Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks the likely starters in the outfield, Gardner, a Yankees mainstay, will have to settle for a lesser role.

But that doesn't mean he will see his playing time dip dramatically.

"He's still going to play a lot, and I think that’ll show up over time," Boone said Wednesday, according to Hoch. "I think he’ll be playing a lot more regularly than some people might be speculating, but it’ll be that constant conversation, and know that he’ll continue to play a big role for us."

Boone added: "We’re going through a stretch where we’re facing a handful of lefties that maybe will take some starts away from him. But when Aaron gets here, Giancarlo and even Hicks to a degree, those are all guys that are going to need their days once, twice a week, whatever it may be."

Gardner is hitting .233/.316/.448 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 68 games this season.

Yankees' Judge nearing return, Gardner to see role change
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