Greg Bird, who was activated from the disabled list Saturday, says he’s ready to play every day at first base, and Aaron Boone is ready to deploy him that way, but the manager has every intention of getting Tyler Austin at-bats.
“I consider Birdie an everyday player,” Boone said before the Yankees hosted the Angels Saturday, with Bird batting sixth in his season debut. “But Tyler Austin’s put himself in a position to garner some at-bats too, especially against lefthanded pitching. There’s probably scenarios where you could see both of them in the lineup too on days against certain lefthanded pitching as well. We have a lot of players that have earned playing time, frankly, so we’ll try to balance that as best we can.”
Austin kept his roster spot upon Bird’s return from ankle surgery as Ronald Torreyes was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Amid a stretch of 14 games in 13 days, the Yankees wanted to keep an extra pitcher and Brian Cashman said he can see more starting opportunities for Austin at the moment.
“Tyler Austin has earned a lot, so he’s here for a reason, despite obviously the roster being a little more jammed up with first basemen and stuff,” Cashman said. “But again I like the opportunities it creates for Aaron Boone on a daily basis with Neil Walker, with Tyler Austin, with Greg Bird. So I’m excited to get Greg back, glad that Tyler earned what he did and I acknowledge that Toe didn’t earn what he got. But the roster crunch is the roster crunch.”
Bird said he stopped feeling pain in his ankle two weeks ago and that he impressed himself with how good he felt at the plate. He played a total of 12 rehab games, the last four with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre during which he hit two homers and had five RBI, three runs and two walks along with sevens strikeouts.
“How quick it came back I think, day to day,” Bird said of what impressed him. “There were some slow rough days in there, but the last week or so has been really good and really consistent, which is what I look for.”
If any issues pop up or he feels he needs a day off, Bird said he’ll speak up, but he doesn’t want any days off.
“Early I needed the days off but lately I’ve felt like I can run out every day,” he said. “That’s how I feel right now. I can go every day. I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t.”
There have been stops and starts to the 25-year-old Bird’s career because of injuries. His spring-training surgery was on the same ankle he had surgically repaired during last season, and he missed all of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. Since making his MLB debut on Aug. 13, 2015 Bird has played 95 regular-season games, including Saturday, along with 14 postseason games.
The injury saga is tougher mentally than physically, Bird feels.