The return of Greg Bird is imminent, leaving the New York Yankees with some hard decisions. Bird left batting practice during spring training after complaining of soreness in his foot, it turned out he would need surgery to remove a broken bone spur from his right ankle after visiting a foot specialist. He was expected to miss 6-8 weeks.
The same ankle was injured last season after fouling a ball off his foot in the final spring training game, causing him to miss most of 2017. After his return he hit a line of .190/.288/.422 with 9 home runs and 28 rbi.
Bird is returning to a loaded infield possibly leaving either Tyler Austin or Neil Walker on the chopping block.
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Neil Walker signed with the Yankees late in spring training. The switch hitter was thought to be the favorite to start at second base but when Bird went down the Yankees decided to platoon him at first with Austin.
Walker is batting a .198/.291/.250 slash line with no home runs and eight rbi. The slow start may be attributed to the fact he came to the team late in spring training and only took 20 at bats to get ready for the season.
He has started to turn it around and his bat has been hot since the beginning of May raising his batting average 35 points. Over the course of the last seven games his slash line is .375/.583/.563 striking out only three times and walking seven.
The Yankees may have a hard time parting with the Switch-hitter especially if his bat remains hot. Walker has been seen taking ground balls at third and with Gleyber Torres locking down Second Base versatility will be key to him remaining on the team. Though a trade may be more likely for the 32 year old if he cannot get enough regular at bats. The infield is crowded and Brandon Drury is likely to return soon as well pushing Walker further down the ladder.
Tyler Austin is batting a .234/.306/.506 slash with 5 home runs and 16 rbi but his bat has gone missing sine May started and if it stays that way he could be looking at a trip back to Scranton Wilkes-Barre. With no hits in the month and a slash of .087/.125/.261 over the last seven games the Yankees could look to use his last minor league option.
Ausin’s lack of versatility may put him at a disadvantage to Walker. Austin did play some Third Base in the minors but has not seen time there in the Majors. He has the ability to play outfield but on a team that is loaded in the outfield it may be hard to squeeze him in.
Tyler could find time at the DH but unless he can get his bat back on track it may not be the right fit at this time in a lineup full of great hitters.
The best move may be to option Austin to Triple-A allowing the Yankees to keep the hot hitting Walker in case of another injury to Bird.
The first baseman has often found him self injured missing the entire 2016 season with an injured shoulder, most of the 2017 season with an ankle injury, and the first month and a half of this season, so the Yankees would like to be prepared in case of another injury.
With Bird starting his rehab assignment yesterday joining the Single-A Tampa roster we could see him back on the team in 10-20 days according to Manager Aaron Boone.
Greg Bird homered in a rehab game yesterday. Boone said Bird could return in 10-20 days … “we’re starting to see the light at the end.”
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) May 9, 2018