After being out since May 2 with a bone bruise on his right ankle, New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird is scheduled to play five innings for the Triple-AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders on Wednesday, eyeing an MLB return sometime next week. Bird will return to a first base position that has troubled the Bronx bombers throughout the 2017 season. In the 104 games since Bird has seen the field, the Yankees have had eight different players take a stab at first base (nine if you want to include Bryan Mitchell).
In the beginning of Bird’s season with the Yanks, his 19 games of play gave him a slash line of .100/.250/.200. After being sidelined since May 2, Bird has gone through a rehab stint in which he played for both the Single-A Tampa Yankees and the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. In Bird’s time with the Tampa Yankees, he produced far better numbers than he had in the big leagues. Bird slugged .353/.500/.471 in his six games with the Tampa Yankees. On closer inspection, Bird’s numbers may have been inflated due to the lower level of competition, but it was a step in the right direction in terms of confidence. After his stop in Tampa, Bird made the trip up north to join the Railriders. Bird was not in Scranton long, playing only six games with the club and hitting for a slash line of .143/.357/.238 before being pulled from the assignment due to an injured leg.
The real question is, how badly do the Yankees really need Bird back in the lineup? As of right now, the Bombers are platooning Chase Headley and Garrett Cooper based on the handedness of the opposing pitcher. Headley originally made the switch to first base in order to make room for Todd Frazier, who the team acquired in a trade with the Chicago White Sox on July 18. Ever since moving to first base, Headley’s bat has been incredibly hot. In the 23 games Headley has played at first base this season, he has hit .333 with two home runs and eleven RBIs. Before Tyler Austin returned to the team on Saturday, the Yankees had been using Garrett Cooper against lefties. Garrett Cooper had been no slouch either, hitting for a slash line of .326/.333/.488 before being sent down to Scranton in order to make room for Tyler Austin. Austin has gone 4-11 with a home run and three RBIs in the two games since he has returned from the DL.
In his five innings in Scranton on Wednesday, Bird went 0-2 with a strike out. Bearing in mind that he’s only played this one game, it appears to be more of what we saw from the 24-year-old in April. Even if it hasn’t shown this season, Bird has demonstrated that he is able to put a hurt on the ball. Before missing the 2016 season with a torn labrum, Bird spent 46 games with the Yankees in which he slugged .261/.343/.529 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs. Since beginning his rehab assignment in Scranton, Bird has gone 6-14 with 2 home runs and 4 RBIs.
With the first base position finally producing, the Yankees should be in no hurry to get Bird back into the lineup. The Yankees have not seen Bird hit over an extended period of time since the 2015 season. Going forward the Yankees should take their time and focus on making sure that Bird is healthy and ready to play for the long-term, as they view him as their first baseman of the future.
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