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Yankees Notebook: Aaron Judge swings during Jonathan Loaisiga’s live bullpen in latest step toward return


Aaron Judge faced live pitching for the first time since injuring his right big toe, taking swings against rehabbing reliever Jonathan Loaisiga before Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium.

Judge took 11 pitches, fouled off four and swung through another during Loaisiga’s live bullpen session.

The development marked progress for the reigning American League MVP, who hasn’t played since tearing a ligament on a June 3 running catch that took him into the Dodger Stadium right field wall.

“To have Aaron get in there and be able to have to take pitches … those are good tests that he’s got to go through in working his way back,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said afterward. “It seemed like a good day all around.”

Boone said the Yankees needed feedback from Judge before determining his next move. The manager hopes Sunday’s session is a “springboard” for Judge, who could take part in simulated games, live at-bats or a minor-league rehab assignment.

“He’s been running bases and starting to cut and do his side-to-side, and doing some defensive work side-to-side, so he’s getting to that point,” Boone said. “One of the biggest things, too, now is going to be building up that little bit of endurance of now doing it for a couple hours at a time. That’s what we’ve got to get him to next.”

Judge doesn’t expect to be pain-free when he returns to the lineup, the slugger said Friday.

“It’s more like the agility, the quick movement, side to side, really pushing off the ball of that foot where most of the pain comes,” Judge said at the time.

Judge batted .291 with 19 home runs and 40 RBI in 49 games before the injury. He took batting practice several times last week.

“When you take into consideration how long he hasn’t seen live pitching in an environment like that, I thought he looked really good,” Loaisiga said Sunday.

Loaisiga, who had a bone spur removed from his right elbow in May, is also progressing toward a return. He threw his four-seam fastball, changeup, slider and sinker Sunday.

“That’s really encouraging to see Lo from a command and stuff [standpoint],” Boone said. “That looked like Lo in the playoffs almost right there.”

The hard-throwing right-hander is scheduled for another live bullpen Wednesday in Tampa, with a minor-league rehab assignment set to follow Saturday, he said. Loaisiga has been out since April 5 and has only appeared in three games this season.

OUTFIELD REINFORCEMENTS

The Yankees got a boost Sunday from Jake Bauers, who returned from the injured list after dealing with left rotator cuff inflammation.

Bauers went 1-for-3 from the leadoff spot in the Yankees’ 8-5 win. The lefty-swinging outfielder had not played since July 5. He has seven home runs in 50 games this season.

The Yankees on Sunday also reinstated speedy outfielder Greg Allen, who was out since early June with a right hip flexor strain. He pinch-ran for Bauers in the seventh inning and went 0-for-1.

New York sent down utility player Oswaldo Cabrera and outfielder Franchy Cordero.

RORTVEDT EMBRACING OPPORTUNITY

Ben Rortvedt’s first game back with the Yankees was a success, with the catcher working with ace Gerrit Cole during a 10-strikeout performance Saturday against the Royals.

The Yankees recalled Rortvedt on Friday to replace fellow catcher Jose Trevino, who is set to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a right wrist tear.

Boone expects Rortvedt to split catching duties with Kyle Higashioka. The Yankees acquired Rortvedt last year in the Twins trade that also brought Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, but the 25-year-old missed most of the 2022 season with injuries.

“I’d be the first one to say it: Injuries suck,” Rortvedt said. “This is a massive blow to the team. I feel horrible for Trevino, but I just really got to get on the same page with the pitching staff and my catcher first. I’ve got to do my job with them, learn everybody as best as I can.”

Rortvedt — a former second-round pick — played five games with the Yankees in May, which he said was a valuable opportunity to work with the team’s relievers and coaching staff.

CORTES MAKES REHAB START

Nestor Cortes struck out four batters Sunday in a rehab assignment with Double-A Somerset, during which he threw 42 pitches.

Cortes, who has been out since May 30 with rotator cuff inflammation, allowed one run over 2.1 innings against the Hartford Yard Goats.

The rehab start followed Monday’s 35-pitch live bullpen session for Cortes, who hopes to return to the Yankees rotation once he’s eligible in early August.

Cortes is 5-2 with a 5.16 ERA this season. The 2022 All-Star had a 2.44 ERA last year.

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