With or without Greg Bird in the lineup the Yankees should be concerned to a certain point. The uncertainty deals with the potential of Bird that has not been seen because of this lingering injury to his right foot and ankle. The concern about losing a potent bat in the lineup and solid position player at first base should not be a concern.
Bird will undergo surgery Tuesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan to remove a small broken spur on the outside aspect of his right ankle and will rehab for 6-8 weeks before returning to game action.
And because GM Brian Cashman built this team to win, and the Yankees certainly are constructed to be a World Series choice, there is every reason to understand why the loss of Bird for a minimal or extensive time will not deter their chances of going far in October.
In other words, the Yankees will fly with or without Bird. There is that versatility to fill a key position in the lineup and with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and of course Giancarlo Stanton, there is enough production to score a good amount of runs and a record number of home runs will be hit in the Bronx and at other ballparks.
So wth Opening Day Thursday up in Toronto, and an anticipated home opener in the Bronx next Monday afternoon, what options do the Yankees present without Bird in the lineup? It’s a situation that rookie manager Aaron Boone can easily handle without Greg Bird in the lineup.
Oh, if not, want to bet that Brian Cashman has a contingency plan ready to go?
Brett Gardner, Judge, Stanton, Sanchez as the first four. And after that the lineup is potent with Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Neil Walker who can also fill the void for Bird at first and will get the Opening Day nod at second.
Now all indications are 26-year old Tyler Austin, a 2010 first round draft pick gets the start at first. And from indications first base belongs to him.
It’s this depth and versatility of the Yankees, with or without Greg Bird. And before fans push the panic button, though Brian Cashman did say there was a concern with the future of Bird at the position, the Yankees can still fly to the top going without the plan of having a healthy Greg Bird in their lineup.
Austin is the righty that can offer some production, perhaps not the proficiency of hitting the long ball however, this spring Austin in 19-games hit four home runs in 44 at bats. Ten of his hits went for two doubles and six RBI, though 13 strikeouts could be a concern. Boone saw progress and how Austin took the pitch walking 13 times.
Austin played 51 games the last two years with the Yankees. A .225 average and two home runs and 8 RBI last season could be a concern, though used primarily as a player off the bench in a utility role.
Do you grant his limited starts with the Yankees as the right move to get the nod Thursday afternoon? Austin will play the field for the first time at Rogers Center up in Toronto and is 0-for-3 against Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ.
Regardless of the circumstance this is what makes the Yankees so good because they can reach down to their minor league system and Cashman does have the tools to pull off another early season transaction. Or, Adam Lind could make a return to the roster after a brief sprint as a Yankee at the early going in spring training.
But there are concerns about Bird. They have been addressed with the 25-year old who made a splash in 2015 when he hit 11 home runs, 31 RBI in 46 games. But the Yankees were always able to fill the void with so many options when Bird went down with issues to his right foot.
Austin said Monday, “ It’s not the way I wanted to make the team. “You take the hand you’re dealt. Hopefully it doesn’t take Bird too long to get back here because he’s a big part of this team.”
And now Tyler Austin becomes an even bigger part of this Yankees team. If not, Boone will go with Neil Walker at first who was an inexpensive and secure move that Brian Cashman was able to obtain.
But more so, and it should be a concern, will the Yankees get to see the real Greg Bird at first base? The Yankees brass said Monday they were optimistic this would be a brief setback for Bird. In the meantime that extra pop from his bat won’t be missed because Judge, Stanton, Sanchez and company will hit their share of home runs.
TOMORROW MY OUTLOOK ON THE 2018 EXPECTATIONS OF THE YANKEES AND METS. STAY IN TOUCH AS NEW YORK SPORTSDAY COLLEAGUE HOWIE KARPIN WILL ALSO PROVIDE HIS ANALYSIS OF THE YANKEES AND METS BEFORE THE FIRST PITCH OF OPENING DAY THURSDAY.