News broke yesterday that Greg Bird will once again miss significant time due to injury. Tests on his inflamed right foot revealed bone spurs requiring surgery. The Yankees expect their first baseman to be sidelined 6-8 weeks.
Manager Aaron Boone provided a possible glimpse into his plans moving forward during last night’s exhibition game in Atlanta. The recently signed Neil Walker started at first base, while Tyler Wade manned the keystone.
Boone previously announced that Wade had earned a spot on New York’s Opening Day roster. The Yankee skipper remained mum, however, regarding who would get the starting nod at second base. He had hinted, though, that Walker and Wade could both see playing time there.
Bird’s injury may change that. With Walker adept at playing first, he becomes an obvious choice to play the position while Bird is on the mend. While Tyler Austin represents another first-base option, Walker achieved an .801 OPS in 111 games for the Brewers and Mets last season. The veteran also produced an average of 2.65 WAR per year during his eight big-league seasons.
If Boone does go with Walker at first, it presents a golden opportunity for Tyler Wade to entrench himself at the keystone. The young prospect appeared in 30 games for the Bombers last year, batting .155/.222/.224 over 63 plate appearances. It was an unremarkable rookie campaign, but Wade took steps to improve this winter.
Wade worked out with future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols during the offseason, whom he credits for helping improve his approach at the plate. We witnessed the results in spring training, as the 23-year-old hit .283/.404/.391 in 21 Grapefruit League games. The effort impressed Boone enough to cause the rookie manager to name Wade to New York’s roster a week ago, even as more highly-touted prospects like Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres found themselves optioned to the minors.
Even if Boone doesn’t assign starting jobs, but instead goes with a more rotational approach that includes Walker and Ronald Torreyes sharing time at second and Austin in the mix at first, Wade will certainly have ample opportunities to prove himself. If the young left-handed hitter produces at the plate, he can help provide some balance to a righty-heavy lineup. This may be precisely what Wade needs to do in order to solidify a place for himself in the organization’s future plans.