Once again, Greg Bird is hurt as spring training comes to a close.
The oft-injured New York Yankees first baseman will need surgery on his ailing right ankle and could be sidelined for two months. The team learned of the setback Monday while in Atlanta for its final exhibition game, three days before the season opener at Toronto.
“Obviously, we were hoping it was going to be a shorter-term thing,” said rookie manager Aaron Boone, who took over a club that reached Game 7 of the AL Championship Series last year. “But we feel like we got some answers. We feel like we know what the surgery’s going to accomplish.”
Bird will have surgery to remove a small broken spur on the outside of his right ankle. Dr. Martin O’Malley is scheduled to operate Tuesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.
The slugger is expected to be out for six to eight weeks.
“Hopefully this is something he will now put behind him for good,” Boone said. “We feel pretty good that the surgery is fairly minor and they’re going to go in and correct the problem. Then he should be good to go.”
Tyler Austin, who had been ticketed to start the season at Triple-A, and switch-hitting second baseman Neil Walker will likely get the bulk of the playing time at first in Bird’s absence.
“Tyler Austin is ready for this opportunity. He was just blocked by Greg Bird,” Boone said.
The 25-year-old Bird has been promising but injury-plagued since his big league debut in 2015, when he came up from the minors and had 11 homers and 31 RBIs in 46 games.
He missed 2016 after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Last year, Bird hit .451 with eight homers in spring training but fouled a ball off his right ankle on March 30, started the season 6 for 60 and went on the disabled list May 2.
Yankees have backups for Bird in Tyler Austin and Neil Walker, but they had very high expectations for Greg Bird this season. So did he. Yankees talked a lot about slotting him between Judge and Stanton in the lineup. Now Bird has to work his way back by June.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) 26 de marzo de 2018
When the foot did not improve, O’Malley operated July 18 to remove a bone in the ankle.
Bird returned Aug. 26 and hit .253 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 29 games, then batted .241 three homers and six RBIs in 13 playoff games. Most notably, he homered off Andrew Miller to account for the lone run in a 1-0 victory over Cleveland in Game 3 of the AL Division Series.
Bird struggled this spring, hitting just .154 in 52 at-bats with one homer, one double and four RBIs.
“In the grand scheme of things,” Boone said, “hopefully we do look back and it’s a short-term bump in the road and we can get him back for good.”