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The Neil Walker signing has already proven to be invaluable

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Some core position players may miss time to start the season, but Neil Walker can step up big time.

MLB: Spring Training-Miami Marlins at New York Yankees
We may need to get this man a first baseman’s mitt.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For most of the spring, the Yankees have avoided the injury bug. Aside from Jacoby Ellsbury starting the season on the disabled list, all of the Yankees’ essential players worked through spring training without a concern. That luck fell apart recently, with Brandon Drury getting plunked on his elbow and Greg Bird suffering from inflammation in his foot.

Neither player has a timetable to return just yet, but the Yankees have to plow ahead without them as the season starts on Thursday. Having two starting-caliber infielders out for any amount of time is an unfortunate situation, but the Yankees have a quality fallback option many teams don’t in Neil Walker.

Signed to a one-year deal in the middle of spring training, Walker has stepped in and gotten going quickly in camp. His .267 batting average is in line with his career spring training numbers, and he appeared poised to spend a majority of his time starting at second base. What gives him added value to the team, however, is that he is willing to shift over to first base if needed.

A career second baseman, Walker has spent marginal time at first base. He played a total of 17 games there, all coming last season and most of which came after he was traded to the Brewers. He also played first base in his debut for the Yankees, showing that the team may have envisioned Walker playing a more utility style when it comes to fielding.

That utility will come up huge now with Bird likely on the shelf for Opening Day, and Drury questionable. Rookie Tyler Wade was already slated to see time at second base, and can hold down the spot while Walker covers first base. If the Yankees determine Bird is going to need additional time to recover, Walker can provide the time to weigh their options, whether it be an internal call up or a reunion with Adam Lind.

Should Drury be the one to take additional time, Walker can also fill in there. Walker played 19 games at the position, though most came early in his career, and can hold down the fort if need be. The Yankees have a much more obvious option there with Miguel Andujar waiting in the wings, but the Yankees don’t want to activate him early and cost themselves and extra year of control on his free agent clock.

Whichever corner of the infield Walker flexes to, having him on the roster will be invaluable for the Yankees as the season starts. The $4 million spent on acquiring him with already be worthwhile if he can help the team start strong despite not having an impact bat like they did last season without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius for most of April.