Bird’s setback means it’s time for the Yankees to start looking for first base help

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Yesterday afternoon, Brian Cashman announced the Yankees have “pulled the plug” on Greg Bird‘s rehab assignment because he still doesn’t feel right. The weird thing is that it’s unclear what exactly doesn’t feel right. Officially, the Yankees pulled him off rehab with a right knee contusion. So is this a new injury? Or is the ankle still a problem?

Either way, Bird’s rehab assignment has been put on hold. Hopefully this is a short-term thing and he can resume playing in a few days. That would be rad. At this point though, given all the injury issues, it might be time for the Yankees to stop counting on Bird for first base help this season, and begin looking outside the organization.

Now, let me be clear about this: I’m not saying the Yankees should give up on Bird. Hardly. He remains a big part of the future (I hope) and he should continue to get chances to be the first baseman of the future. What I am saying is Bird is dealing with so many problems right now …

  1. Continued recovery from shoulder surgery and the ongoing process of shaking off the rust.
  2. A bone bruise in his ankle from the foul ball in Spring Training.
  3. Now a knee contusion, apparently.

… that taking a step back and allowing him to focus on getting healthy rather than doing all he can to return to the Yankees as soon as possible might be the best thing. Does Bird want to do that? Of course not. He’s a competitor and he missed all of last season. He wants to get back into the lineup as soon as possible. It would be weird if he didn’t.

The Yankees have to take the big picture into consideration though. Bird already spent a month playing through an ankle injury — a bad decision that only looks worse as time goes on — and now apparently he has a knee problem. The absolute last thing anyone wants is Bird to re-injure his shoulder by changing his mechanics at the plate to compensate for a weakened lower half. That’s something that can happen subconsciously.

The best thing now might be treating this almost as a rehab season. Let Bird rest and get healthy. The knee, the ankle, everything. Give him as much time as he needs, then give him regular at bats in the minors to make sure his swing is all the way back. Remember how bad he was earlier this season? No one wants to see that again. When Bird comes back, the Yankees want him to be healthy and ready to do damage.

For that to happen, a “rehab” year for Bird, the Yankees will need to bring in first base help. Chris Carter had a nice game last night, though he’s been pretty terrible overall, and I’m not sure there’s enough upside here to remain patient. Yes, Carter has legit 40+ homer power and that’s cool. There are so many other holes in his game though. Last season was a career year for him, and those 41 homers came with a 112 wRC+ and +1 WAR. Meh.

Who the Yankees could target for first base help is another conversation for another time, and something we’ll no doubt talk about in the near future. The Eric Hosmer rumors are inevitable — did you realize the Royals are only two games back of a postseason spot? — though I’m partial to Yonder Alonso. There are first basemen out there to be had, better first baseman than Carter who would make it easier to be patient with Bird.

Even though they’re in first place, the Yankees are a rebuilding transitioning team at heart right now, and they’re focused on developing their young players to build a new core. Bird is part of that group. He’s not healthy right now though. He’s not healthy and it seems like his swing might not be all the way back either (3-for-21 in Triple-A on rehab). This is extending beyond the simple “he’s banged up” stuff players deal with all the time.

The Yankees should put Bird’s long-term future first, and in the wake of this latest setback, that means given him all the time he needs to get 100% healthy and to get his swing back. Going out and getting first base help, someone better than Carter, would make that easier. And whenever Bird is all the way back, be it August or September or next April, the Yankees will find a way to get him in the lineup.

Greg Bird still doesn’t feel right, Yankees have “pulled the plug” on his rehab

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

7:33pm ET: The Yankees announced Bird has been pulled off his rehab assignment with a right knee contusion. He fouled a pitch off his shin the other day, but was fine and stayed in the game. I wonder if that’s just a mistake and they meant a right ankle contusion? Either way, it’s a setback.

6:27pm ET: Greg Bird‘s rehab has hit a snag. Brian Cashman told Erik Boland that Bird still doesn’t feel well, so they have “pulled the plug” on his rehab. The issue is still with his ankle, not his surgically repaired shoulder. Bird has been out since early May with a bone bruise in the ankle, an injury he originally suffered in the final week of Spring Training. He fouled a pitch off the ankle and tried to play through it in April.

Bird has been on a minor league rehab assignment the last two weeks, going 9-for-38 (.237) with 12 walks and four strikeouts in 12 games. The numbers don’t mean much though. How does he feel? How does his swing look? Does his have his lower half working right? Those are the important questions, and no, apparently he doesn’t feel good.

Joe Girardi said earlier today Bird will see a doctor, and hopefully that brings good news. Maybe it is nothing more than normal “hey you’re playing baseball everyday again” soreness. It’s not easy to be optimistic though. The Yankees have a pretty terrible history with bone bruises (see: Teixeira, Mark) and Bird himself has had plenty of injury issues in his career, even going back to his days in the minors.

Unless the doctor visit brings good news, the Yankees are going to have to start thinking about trading for a new first baseman. Chris Carter has worn out his welcome and Tyler Austin probably isn’t good enough to start at first base for a contender. Playing Matt Holliday there full-time doesn’t seem like a good idea at his age either.

I suppose the good news is the Yankees are in first place despite getting nothing from first base, a premium offensive position. They shouldn’t bank on that continuing though. If Bird is going to miss more time, they have to start thinking about an upgrade if they plan on giving themselves the best possible chance to contend. They can’t keep waiting for Bird. Not at this point.

Game 59: Severino Saturday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have won their last three games and they’re 6-5 in the first eleven games of this 13-game stretch against AL East opponents. Yeah, it would have been nice to grab a few more wins this last week and a half, but today’s game is a chance to clinch a winning record during his 13-game streak, and that’s pretty cool. Win the series. Keep winning series and things will be a-okay, especially since the Yankees are already in first place.

This afternoon the Yankees will have their best starting pitcher on the mound, or, at the very least, their best in the first two months of the season. Luis Severino owns a 2.90 ERA (3.16 FIP) in eleven starts and he looks basically nothing like the pitcher we saw last year. It’s awesome. Severino has not just reverted back to his 2015 form. He’s gotten better. Go Sevy. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Luis Severino

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It’s been sunny and warm all day and the sky will be clear tonight. Nice night for a ballgame. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:15pm ET and FOX will have the broadcast. Not YES. Enjoy the game.

Rotation Update: The Yankees still have not named a starting pitcher for tomorrow’s series finale, though Brendan Kuty reports it will be Domingo German. That’s pretty cool. He’s already on the the 40-man roster, and prior to this season, he’d ever pitched above High-A.

Injury Update: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) threw 18 pitches in a simulated inning against minor leaguers at the complex in Tampa today. He struck out three and walked one. It was his first time facing hitters since going on the disabled list. He will pitch Tuesday for High-A Tampa and Friday for Double-A Trenton, then rejoin the Yankees in Oakland … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) won’t travel with the Yankees to the West Coast. He’s going to work out with Double-A Trenton, though he is not yet scheduled to play in any rehab games … There is still no firm timetable for Greg Bird (ankle) to rejoin the Yankees. They want him to continue getting at-bats.

Game 55: Can the good Tanaka come back? Pretty please?

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Once upon a time, Masahiro Tanaka was a good pitcher. Crazy, I know. It can be easy to forget that given how terrible three of his last four starts were. We’re talking 22 runs and eight homers in 17.2 innings terrible. And that includes his 13-strikeout game against the A’s two weeks ago. Tanaka has legitimately been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this year, and man, that sucks so hard.

On the bright side, Tanaka’s best start of the season came against the same Red Sox team he’ll face tonight. Gosh, I sure would love a repeat of that complete game shutout performance tonight. I’ll settle for a quality start. Please come back, good Masahiro. We all miss you. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. CF Aaron Hicks
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Not a great weather day in New York. It’s overcast and it was raining earlier today, though there’s none of the wet stuff in the forecast tonight. At least not enough of it to delay or postpone the game. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:05pm ET. You can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) expects to throw one more bullpen session with the Yankees before heading to Tampa on Friday to continue his rehab. If all goes well, it could be a quick minor league rehab assignment, and he could rejoin the team in the middle of next week … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) remains “status quo,” according to Joe Girardi. He is still experiencing symptoms and there is no timetable for his return … Greg Bird (ankle) will join Triple-A Scranton on Thursday to continue his rehab assignment.

All-Star Voting Update: MLB released the second AL All-Star Game voting update earlier today, and Judge has taken over as the league’s leading vote-getter. Pretty cool. His 1,251,543 votes are second only to Bryce Harper (1,459,235) among all players. Here’s the full voting update. Castro has predictably fallen behind Jose Altuve at second base. Holliday is second at DH, Gregorius is third at shortstop, and Sanchez is fourth at catcher.

Game 50: How about a series win in Baltimore?

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Yesterday I mentioned the Yankees have not won a series at Camden Yards since September 2014, but I was wrong. They haven’t won a series in Baltimore since September 2013. Yikes. That was ten series ago. The last time the Yankees won a series at Camden Yards, Phil Hughes started the final game. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Tonight the Yankees are looking for a second consecutive strong outing from Masahiro Tanaka following back-to-back disaster games. He was awesome last time out, though the A’s don’t have the most imposing lineup. The Orioles should provide a bit more of a challenge. Just win the series, dudes. Win series and good things will happen. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. SS Ronald Torreyes
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Another cloudy night in Baltimore, though there’s no (heavy) rain in the forecast. Last night there was a ton of rain in the forecast and it never showed up, so who the hell knows. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET. You can watch on WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (ankle) played a three-inning simulated game at first base today. He is scheduled to begin an official minor league rehab assignment tomorrow and play six innings with High-A Tampa … Didi Gregorius (hand) is still sore after being hit by a pitch last night. He could have played tonight, but they’re giving him a day to receive treatment and heal up. X-rays last night were negative.

Roster Update: The Yankees have sent down Bryan Mitchell and called up Gio Gallegos, the team announced. Gallegos now takes over as the “pitches once every ten days and everyone wonders why he isn’t throwing more strikes” reliever.

All-Star Game Voting: Earlier today MLB released the first AL All-Star Game voting update. Here are the results. Mike Trout is the league’s leading vote-getter with 776,937 votes. Judge is second with 730,438. Pretty cool. Castro currently has a slim 536-vote lead over Jose Altuve at second base. Holliday (third), Gregorius (fourth), Gary Sanchez (fourth), Headley (fifth), Gardner (11th), and Jacoby Ellsbury (12th) are among the notable vote-getters at their positions. Here’s the All-Star Game ballot.

Game 48: Beat the O’s

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

This afternoon’s Memorial Day matinee at Camden Yards begins a stretch of 13 games in 14 days against AL East rivals for the Yankees. Two weeks from now, we should have a better idea of their status as a division title contender. The Yankees already have the fourth best postseason odds in the league (by a mile), but give me that division title. Not another wildcard game. This stretch is pretty darn important by late-May/early-June standards.

The Orioles come into this series having lost seven straight games — they’ve been outscored 38-17 in the seven games — and 13 of their last 16 games overall. They are weak and vulnerable right now. The Yankees are catching them at a good time. Then again, intra-AL East games never seem to be easy regardless of the opponent’s record. Just keep winning series. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It is cloudy in Baltimore today, though there’s no rain in the forecast until much later tonight, so the Yankees and Orioles should have no trouble getting this afternoon’s game in. Today’s game will start a bit after 1pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) played catch again today … Greg Bird (ankle) took live batting practice in Tampa. The tentative plan is to get him into minor league rehab games later this week … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is still shut down. He has not yet been cleared to resume baseball activities.

Game 46: My Kingdom For Some Runs

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Over the last five games, dating back to Masahiro Tanaka‘s blowup in Tampa, Yankees starters have allowed six runs (five earned) total in 33.1 innings. None of the five starters allowed more than two runs in their starts. And yet, the Yankees went only (“only”) 3-2 in those five games because the offense is slumping so hard. The Yankees scored only 13 runs in those five games, and they’ve scored only 23 runs in their last eight games. Geez.

Things could turn around in an instant, of course. Tanaka threw literally the two worst starts of his MLB career back-to-back, then bam, he dominated and struck out a career high 13 last night. The offense has scored 13 runs in their last five games and they’re perfectly capable of putting up 13 runs in five innings this afternoon. I hope it happens. Few things in baseball are less enjoyable than a lack of offense. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

Not a bad afternoon for baseball in the Bronx. It is cloudy out, but it’s a pleasant 72 degrees and there’s no rain in the forecast. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) played catch today for the first time since going on the disabled list. He reported no issues … Greg Bird (ankle) is still on track to head to Tampa tomorrow and begin playing in minor league rehab games. His rehab work has gone well the last few days … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is following the concussion protocol and there’s not much he can do right now. He’s shut down until the doctors say he can resume baseball activities.