Greg Bird is on the disable list after the team decided his bruised ankle needed some time off to heal. After a torrid spring, Bird has struggled through the first month of the season, which could be partially related to fouling a ball off his ankle on the last day of spring training.
There is absolutely no need for Bird to continue playing on an ankle that Joe Girardi says is having a clear impact on his swing. After all, it’s difficult to generate much power when your front foot is hindered. Bird is a competitor who wants to be on the diamond and contributing to the team’s surprising early surge, but he will do the Yankees a better service by taking time to heal and coming back with a better swing.
Luckily for Bird and the Yankees, plenty of hitters have stepped up to carry the load while the first baseman tries to find his groove.
Injuries can derail a club in a hurry. Just look over at the other team in New York and how they’re faring. Granted, their injury bug is much more severe, but the Yankees have the good fortune of having other guys step up when needed.
Take Tuesday night’s win for example. Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the lineup after bruising a nerve in his left elbow, and his replacement Aaron Hicks promptly belted a home run, his fifth of the year.
Hicks has seen a major improvement so far this season, carrying an OPS of 1.059 in 50 at-bats. Meanwhile, with his fellow outfielder hurting, Brett Gardner slugged two homers in Tuesday’s win to help lead the offense past the Blue Jays.
The contributions don’t end there. Starlin Castro has been splendid so far, batting .360 with 55 total bases. Chase Headley has also been swinging a hot bat this year, and is forcing teams to reconsider playing the shift on him. Then there’s Aaron Judge, who’s been decent.
The performance of the offense has to be a comfort for Girardi. Of course, the main objective for Bird is to allow the ankle to mend so he can return to a level of play that we saw in March and for much of his 2015 season. This would be the case regardless of the rest of the team’s offensive performance. Still, it must save Girardi some stress knowing that there are plenty of hitters making an impact in the lineup while some of the Baby Bombers make their way back.
This has been the narrative for most of the early season. When Didi Gregorius went down in spring training, Ronald Torreyes stepped in wonderfully and currently holds a .310 batting average with 13 RBI. Gary Sanchez went down with a biceps strain, and Austin Romine stepped up his play as well. Romine left Tuesday night’s win with groin discomfort, but Sanchez seems close to a return now that he’s already hitting bombs down in Triple-A.
The “next man up” philosophy is working wonders for the Yanks so far. Bird will hopefully be back soon, but there are options in the interim. Matt Holliday has been swinging the bat well and has some first base experience. Chris Carter is another option despite his early struggles, but perhaps playing with a sense of regularity will help his power stroke.
Injuries are part of the game, but if the Yankee bats can continue to produce when they’re needed most, they will be in great shape to outlast the long and grueling season.