No, it can’t be. The reports are wrong. They’re jumping the gun. Maybe, but hopefully, for the Yankees and their fans, it’s a false alarm and Opening Day will not have a black halo capping what has been an awesome Spring Training healthwise. We’ll see…
This is not the news the Yankees were waiting for, but with Bird, the team has regretfully become accustomed to regular visits to the MRI machine. Oft-injured, Bird, equally touted as the team’s best hitter has been looked upon as the link between Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez in the Yankees regular lineup to create a lefty power-hitting offset to the right-handed trio.
It’s too early to tell where this will land, but the initial appraisal of even the need for an MRI on the same foot that kept Bird limited to only 93 games over the past three season has to be alarming, to a team that is on the precipice of achieving their 28th World Championship and first since 2009.
Today, we’ll know more, but “discomfort” is discomfort regardless of what the MRI reveals. Bird has learned from the past in dealing with his balky ankle that surgery is not ever going to be a total cure. It is what is and tenderness is part of the process of keeping him on the field.
Worse, this development could lead to yet another charge from some idiot in the media that questions, yet again, Bird’s toughness. Bird proved everyone wrong, including the Yankees brass last season, when he stormed back to the Yankees lineup just in time to help propel the team to within one out of the World Series.
How this proceeds from here will once again test the creativeness of Brian Cashman to solve a problem when there is little if any, time to search out a solution in the absence of Bird for any prolonged period.
Last year, Yankees will recall Cashman summoning Chris Carter from the trash heap of baseball in a much-maligned and eventually fruitless attempt to fill the void. Over time, then Yankees manager Joe Girardi raised a “You gotta get rid of this guy” red flag to Cashman, who complied, and with the help of Chase Headley and the arrival of Todd Frazier in a trade with White Sox, the need was abated.
In 2018, Tyler Austin stands as the readiest replacement for Bird, should the need arise. Gary Sanchez has taken some reps at first but is not a full-time answer. Super utility player and recent addition to the Yankees 25-man squad, Tyler Wade, could help but first base is not one of the many positions he has played to date.
In the event Bird goes down, it’s not likely Brian Cashman will panic again, although the team could renew their interest in pulling Adam Lind out of purgatory where the Yankees sent him after failing to make the team this spring.
Depth will determine the winners in this baseball season. The Yankees have plenty of it plus $20 million or so to play with should the need arise before they reach the $197 million plateau before luxury tax penalties hit.
This is big, though. And a Yankees season without the services of Greg Bird at full strength is something that needs to be dealt with directly and with alacrity. In the meantime though, it’s Tyler Austin’s show, and it’s his opportunity to rise another level in the same way Tyler Wade has in the eyes of the Yankees brass.
Panic time, no. A concern, yes.