Mark Teixeira has been hurt since August 17 and they still don't know how to fix him. They thought he'd be much better by now, but after allowing him to start on the 25th and pinch hit on the 26th, he's gone back to New York for further testing and now it turns out the bone bruise in his shin hasn't healed at all. According to Brian Cashman, it's going to take a lot longer for him to return now, and even then, there's no guarantee:
Cashman said Teixeira will miss at least 2 more weeks with the bone bruise. The Yankees have 32 games left.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) September 1, 2015
Tex was hitting only .185/.254/.352 in the month of August before he went down, but this is the player that has led the offense all season long. Of the players who have at least 400 plate appearances this year, he leads the team with 31 home runs, a .548 slugging percentage, and a 145 wRC+. ZiPS projects that he will be worth 0.5 WAR and hit .245/.342/.487 with five home runs the rest of the way, and for a team that hit .238/.319/.389 in the month of August, the Yankees could really use that hitter. If the Yankees can't get Mark Teixeira back by the end of the season, how will he be able to get it going for the playoffs? Even worse, if he's done for the year, what do they do over the next month or so?
Right now, Greg Bird's first real chance as a big leaguer has been filled with mixed results. He hit two home runs on the 19th and it looked like everything would be fine while Teixeira was out, but Bird has hit only .211/.311/.237 since and has struck out nearly 27% of the time already. It's also starting to look like the majors have caught onto his weakness for high strikes and they're getting him to strike out on them at an alarming frequency:
Bird has to learn how to adjust if he wants to have a successful big league career, but he also needs to figure it out because now the Yankees suddenly need him. He seems to be capable enough at first base–certainly better than Garrett Jones was–but is there a better option?
The idea of seeing Alex Rodriguez back out on the field has resurfaced in recent days with Joe Girardi now considering putting him at first base against lefties. Brian Cashman didn't seem very comfortable with that plan:
"I don't feel like he's a real option over there. I just personally don't have much comfort with Alex at first. That's my opinion." - Cashman
And neither did A-Rod, who seems to enjoy being off the field:
"I think it helps. When you look at the (2014) suspension, look at the All-Star break, look at Washington or look at the Marlins, I think those breaks have all been good for me, and I've bounced back nicely." - A-Rod
Girardi and Cashman sound like they're at odds on how to handle the designated hitter, but the Yankees general manager said it would ultimately be Girardi's call, so there's a non-zero chance we see A-Rod platooning with Greg Bird soon. That's not to say that Bird has a problem against lefties–though he has only managed a .720 OPS against southpaws over the last two minor league seasons–just that with Teixeira gone, the Yankees have missed his switch-hitting abilities in the lineup and this could be the next best thing. The biggest concern with this move would be whether or not Rodriguez can hold up after last taking the field in May. He's also only hit .153/.273/.259 in the month of August, and after clearly taking to more rest during interleague games, it would be silly to expect him to perform after being given more work.
That would leave the Yankees with Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan, and Dustin Ackley. Headley might make the most sense to at least perform duties as a backup first baseman, but that would mean that Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan would end up being in the same lineup, unless they decide to play Rob Refsnyder some. Ryan has experience at first base as he played the position a few times last year. It also turns out that Ackley, the guy they traded for to play five different positions, doesn't actually have much professional experience at first base. I very, very briefly spoke to Lookout Landing writer Meg Rowley about Ackley's playing career at first base:
Quoted. He has a 76 wRC+ on the year and is now coming off a luging disc in his back, so it's probably not a good idea to make him an everyday player. He played first in college, so he might be a good option to back up the position, but he's probably not someone the Yankees want to rely on too heavily.
Now that it's September, the Yankees can't trade for someone and expect them to be eligible for the playoffs, so it would seem that, right now, Greg Bird is their best and only hope. They can probably survive a game or two with Headley or Ackley filling in, but Bird has to figure things out. It's a real possibility that Tex's season is over, and even if it's not, it's hard to see him getting into a groove before the playoffs start with so little time left. The team's reliance on Teixeira and Rodriguez got them this far, but now it's time for others to step up and fill that space.