The Yankees will soon be testing the age-old adage that too much of anything is not necessarily a good thing when Greg Bird returns from his rehab assignments in the next 10-20 days. Oh, and there’s another one that says don’t change horses in midstream. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Not necessarily, though.
The Yankees surely are not broke. Instead, they are on their wildest run since the record-setting 1998 season. So why would there be a need for fixin’? Maybe need is not the right word, and all we have to say is there an opportunity coming up to re-establish the team’s starting lineup from day one of the 2018 season because Greg Bird is on the fast track to rejoin the Yankees.
Greg Bird was originally slated to be the Yankees number three batter in their lineup, placed between any combination of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. But as we know, he was forced out by another version of an ankle injury, Since then, Tyler Austin and Neil Walker have been alternating duties at first base, mostly depending on who’s hot and who’s not.
Although Austin ranks fifth on the team in RBI, neither would seem to qualify for anything other than a back-up to Bird when he comes back. Except for the fact that adding Bird (now) adds a new dynamic to the team at a time when the apple cart is rolling down the hill on its own volition. In almost perfect synchronicity.
Aaron Boone is not ready to make any rash judgments or commitments, either way, telling MLB.Com only that:
Nevertheless, the minute Greg Bird is ready to play at baseball’s highest level; he will immediately be inserted into the Yankees lineup, because that’s the way the Yankees do things. You don’t get injured and lose your spot. That only happens on the playing field.
In one respect, Greg Bird’s return is a Godsend, even with the team playing in the stratosphere. Didi Gregorius is everything he is, but he is not a number three hitter. Gregorius is in a slump of massive proportion at the moment, but that has little to do with the fact he belongs behind Sanchez in the six hole, where he is best suited for clean-up duty driving in runners already on, instead of hitting in the early stages of a rally.
We’ve already talked previously about the cohesiveness in the Yankees clubhouse, and how the watchful eyes of Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia keep everyone on the same page. Greg Bird is not David Price, who, according to multiple reports, is testing the Red Sox $217 million patience with a carpal tunnel injury that is being traced to his penchant for playing video games.
Nor is Greg Bird Yeonis Cespedes, who has to be reminded to drink plenty of fluids daily and stay off the golf course. Bird is a professional ballplayer in every sense of the word, and it’s likely he’ll step right in just as he did last season when he had some of the most important hits of the Yankees season in the playoffs. Here’s a sample…
Still, the question looms in the background. When Bird comes back, whose roster spot does he take? Here’s a thought on that. The Yankees are still carrying 13 pitchers, eight of whom work out of the bullpen. With the starting staff coming more clearly into focus and performing so well, Boone might give thought to carrying only seven relievers.
This would enable the Yankees to keep both Walker and Austin, both of whom initially made the team as reserve players, on the squad. If needed, the Scranton Express can be used to keep the arms in the bullpen fresh, something the Yankees are doing already anyway.
As indicated in a previous column, the Yankees are proving it takes a village to make a team, and the return of Greg Bird should only be an addition to the position players on the team and not the reason for any subtraction.
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