Greg Bird's setback in his rehab assignment is a huge concern for a Yankee team that needs answers

It’s almost hard to imagine how dominant this Yankees team would be if there was production out of the first base and third base positions. When Greg Bird went on the 10-day DL on May 2, nobody expected that he would be out this long. Since then, with Chris Carter as the everyday first baseman and Chase Headley as the everyday third baseman, the production hasn’t been very good. After Chase Headley cooled off from his mostly red-hot April (which we all saw coming, let's be honest) the two have combined for a .230 average with just 10 home runs and 47 runs batted in. Those are certainly not stats that you want out of your corner infielders, who traditionally are the players in the middle of a big league line up.
Photo Credit: Seth Wanig | AP

In Spring Training, everything seemed wonderful in Yankee land. The team was playing great baseball, and more importantly, Greg Bird, who missed all of 2016 with a shoulder injury, was absolutely destroying baseballs. Hitting .461 with eight homers in the Grapefruit League, Greg Bird was looking to capitalize on a breakout season as the Yankees starting first baseman.

He had that opportunity. However, it didn't quite go as anyone would have thought.

Bird went just 6-for-60 with only one home run and three runs batted in to start the season. The Yankees placed him on the 10-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his right foot from fouling off a pitch in the last Grapefruit League game of the Spring.

When the Yankees finally sent him on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the struggles continued for Bird. After Wednesday’s 0-for-3 with two strikeouts performance, Bird is just 3-for-21 at the plate for the AAA squad.

Manager Joe Girardi said on Mike Francesa’s show on WFAN that Bird still isn’t feeling right and will be seeing another doctor. 

“The results, they haven’t been great is the bottom line, so we’re trying to get him going is what we’re trying to do,” Girardi said. “I’m not there, so I’m not necessarily watching his whole at-bats and how he’s reacting to pitches, but when you look at the numbers, they’re not what you expect from Greg Bird.”

Bone bruises are absolutely brutal to deal with, and they can linger for a while. That being said, it shouldn’t have impacted Bird’s numbers this drastically. It was pretty obvious in April that Bird was becoming frustrated and swinging at pitches you don’t normally see him swinging at. The same is the case for him during his rehab stint. While I'm sure he’s dealing with soreness in his ankle, I would argue that he’s struggling more so mentally and he's really pressing at the plate. Anybody that understands baseball knows how important confidence is for a hitter, and right now, that has to be a major issue with Greg Bird.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Greg Bird will be returning to the Bombers anytime soon. Not only will he need to get healthy, but he’ll have to produce more at the Triple-A level. I can’t believe I'm saying this, but yes, Bird will have to win his job back from Carter of all people. There’s no secret that Carter isn’t exactly a fan favorite in the Bronx, and many fans want him DFA’d as soon as humanly possible. 

The only problem is… The Yanks don't exactly have a first baseman other than him at the moment. Matt Holliday and Rob Refsnyder have made spot starts at first base to give Carter some days off, but Holliday needs to focus on continuing to hit as a DH, and we all know what we’re going to get out of Refsnyder. He’s a very average Major League hitter, with below average defensive capabilities at first base.

If Bird continues to struggle and have issues with his bone bruise in his right foot, Tyler Austin may be able to help the Yankees out later in the season. Austin was placed on the 60-day DL with a broken foot he suffered on February 17. In 80 at-bats between AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and AA Trenton Thunder, Austin is hitting .325 with a homer and seven runs batted in. The Yankees would certainly like to see this trend continue, and Austin could be up with the big club around the All-Star break.

With the Yanks owning the lead in the AL East, there’s no doubt they are optimistic in playing in the playoffs. Bottom line, Chris Carter cannot be the Yankee’s first baseman in October. Although a trade seems unlikely, I wouldn't be surprised if the Yankees go out and test the waters for a low-cost first baseman, preferably with some playoff experience. However, beggars can’t be choosers.

This, of course, is the absolute worst case scenario. If all goes as planned, Bird will be up starting at first base as soon as possible if he figures things out offensively. If not, hopefully Austin can continue to perform in the Minor Leagues and get the call up to help the Yankees out.

Thinking about this Yankees team with the Spring Training version of Greg Bird really excites me, and it's what has made his season that much more frustrating. To be honest, the expectations for Bird entering this season were low, but he put the expectations through the roof with his incredible spring. 

Hopefully, we will see him back in pinstripes sooner than later, but the recent setback suggests it will be later rather than sooner, and that's only going to hurt the Yankees in the long run.

Article by: Noah Clement


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