Sunday, March 25, 2018

If at First You Don't Succeed...

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Winslow Townson)
Ty, Ty, Tyler Again…

On a wing and a prayer. Unfortunately, that’s life with Greg Bird as your first baseman.

The Yankees Universe collectively groaned a sigh of disappointment when Bird was pulled before the start of an exhibition game with the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, FL at the Walt Disney Resort yesterday with an apparent foot injury. He underwent an MRI and a CT scan yesterday afternoon and it was determined that he had right foot inflammation. It is in the same general area where he had ankle surgery last summer to remove excessive bone growth. The reason for the inflammation is not currently known. 

Bird will see noted New York Orthopaedic Surgeon Martin J. O’Malley in the Upper East Side on Monday to determine the cause of the inflammation.  


Every year, it seems like it is something with the talented but fragile first baseman. He missed the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery. Then last year, the foot injury at the end of training camp led to the eventual ankle surgery in July which limited him to 48 games although he did have a memorable post-season.  

If Bird is forced to the disabled list, Tyler Austin appears to be the beneficiary. GM Brian Cashman has indicated that the Yankees will use in-house options. Neil Walker has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s hard to envision the second baseman as the regular first baseman. Backup or platoon maybe. Brandon Drury played first base in the minors but he is firmly planted as the third baseman. The Yankees always seem to be looking for alternatives to Austin (for whatever reason), so it is not a given that Austin will make the roster if Bird cannot.  

When Austin was forced to move from DH to first base to replace Bird for the game against the Braves, the Yankees pulled first baseman Ryan McBroom out of the minor league camp for DH duties. McBroom, the return when the Yankees traded Rob Refsnyder last year, responded with a home run and a run-scoring single (the latter hit produced two runs but the second one was courtesy of a throwing error). McBroom will be 26 in a couple of weeks but he has never played above Double A. Another option surfaced on Saturday when the Seattle Mariners returned Rule 5 draftee Mike Ford to the Yankees. He was assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Ford batted .259 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 54 at-bats for the Mariners this Spring, but regular first baseman Ryon Healy returned from hand surgery sooner than expected and Daniel Vogelbach won the backup job as the team’s hottest hitter in camp. So Ford didn’t do a bad job for the M’s…it was just a numbers game. Between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, Ford batted .270/.404/.471 with .875 OPS to go with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. The guess is that Austin gets the job if Bird is not ready, but Ford looms as a potential option.  

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Chris Carlson)
I really like Greg Bird as a player and his swing is a thing of beauty. But the succession of injuries is taxing to say the least. I will continue to hope for the best and I am trying to be optimistic that the latest inflammation is not a sign of much deeper problems. Let’s hope that Bird receives positive news from Dr O’Malley tomorrow and the foot inflammation is solved with treatment and rest.  

With Ford’s return, the Yankees have recaptured two of the four players taken in last December’s Rule 5 Draft. Anyelo Gomez was previously returned to the Yankees by the Braves.  The Baltimore Orioles designated Jose Mesa, Jr for assignment on March 21st when they signed free agent Alex Cobb. If Joe Table, Jr clears waivers, he’ll be offered back to the Yankees. Nestor Cortes, Jr remains in Orioles camp and is the scheduled starter in today’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.  

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun
I’ve seen a lot of negative reaction from the Yankees fan base over the decision to give RHP Jonathan Holder the final spot on the Opening Day roster over Domingo German. I don’t get it. With the RailRiders, German can continue to start and will be stretched out if/when the Yankees need an emergency or extra starter. I’d prefer that to German sitting in the bullpen waiting for opportunities. Some fans seem to think the Opening Day roster is etched in stone.  If we’ve learned anything, the final spots on the roster are very fluid with movement aboard the Scranton Shuttle.  

Baseball is tough.  It’s hard to believe that closer Greg Holland has been unable to find a job.  He had 41 saves in 2017 for the Colorado Rockies. He turned down an off-season offer from the Rockies and their money went to new closer Wade Davis. I keep hearing that teams continue to stay away from Holland due to his asking price. At what point does Holland say ‘uncle’ and accept an offer simply to play? Same with Mark Reynolds who hit 30 home runs last season for the Rockies. I feel bad for the guys who can still play the game at its highest level but can’t find a job. The next few days will be even tougher as teams make the necessary cuts to reach their 25-man rosters. You wonder if it is the end of the line for older players like Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday. Scott Kazmir, part of the salary dump that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was released by the Braves yesterday. He had exited the game against the Yankees with left arm fatigue (after reportedly having thrown 90-100 pitches in a bullpen session last Wednesday). Despite on the hook for $16 million, the Braves opted to part ways with the left-hander who missed the 2017 season with injuries. Now, Kazmir is one of many on the unemployment line (although I am fairly confident the $16 million will help him pay bills while he looks for a new job).  

Today is the final day in Florida for the Yankees. After today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, the Yankees will head for Atlanta, GA to play the Braves at SunTrust Park on Monday. Then, MLB camp is done. The Gang of 25 will head to Toronto and the Aaron Boone Era will officially begin with Opening Day on Thursday against the AL East rival Blue Jays. It’s almost time.  

To borrow words from the great John Sterling, let’s give the team a “Stanton ovation”! It’s going to be a very exciting season. Go Yankees!

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