By Brendan Kuty
Here are 5 takeaways from Cashman:
ACKLEY: Utility man Dustin Ackley will likely step into a bigger role as Bird rehabilitates his torn right labrum, Cashman said.
Ackley was slated to start the season as the team’s jack of all trades, able to fill in at all three outfield positions, second base and first base, where he played in college. Meanwhile, Cashman expected Bird to start the season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre due to a numbers crunch on the 25-man roster. Bird, however, would have been the likely fill-in if starting first baseman Mark Teixeira were to suffer a long-term injury, with Ackley being a stopgap option.
Now it’s Ackley who would see the majority of playing time at first base if Teixeira gets hurt or needs a rest day at designated hitter, Cashman said.
DEVELOPMENT NOT AN ISSUE: Missing an entire season at age 23 isn’t good for any player’s development. However, Cashman said, Bird showed he’s a starting-caliber first baseman in 2015. Cashman said he doesn’t believe the missed season will set the Colorado native back.
“I don’t think he really needed to prove anything to us,” Cashman said. “Now it’s just about health. I’m not sure there’s much development in his case. He was pretty close to a finished product.”
TIMELINE: Here’s how the discovery of Bird’s injury went down, according to Cashman.
Considering Bird had suffered a right-shoulder injury in May 2015, the Yankees examined him after the season. (Bird didn’t complain of pain during the season, Cashman said.) Bird passed the Yankees’ exit physical.
But then Bird’s agent told the Yankees that Bird wasn’t completely forthright about his shoulder during the season and that he had, in fact, been experiencing pain and that it was still bothering him. So the Yankees gave him an MRI, which showed no further damage since his pervious MRI in May, when the injury was first discovered. Yankees doctors then recommended rest and rehabilitation, “with the full expectation he’d be fine,” Cashman said.
In January, Bird started performing baseball activities. That’s when the pain got worse, Cashman said. Bird saw the Yankees’ team physician last week, who noticed changes in a new MRI on his shoulder. That’s when surgery was recommended.
OPTIONS? Despite the availability of free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez, who hit 27 homers for Pittsburgh last season, Cashman hinted that the team likely wouldn’t be in on his market.
“I would expect that we’ll look at anybody interested in coming in on a minor league contract and interested in being an insurance policy,” Cashman said.
ESPN’s Buster Olney recently reported that six or more teams had contacted Alvarez’s agent, Scott Boras, and that Alverez, a Bronx product, would need regular playing time. With Alex Rodriguez locked into DH, and Teixiera at first base, it would be a long shot that Alvarez would accept a minor-league deal to be an insurance policy.
TYLER AUSTIN? The Yankees had former top prospect Tyler Austin play eight games at first base during the Arizona Fall League. When asked whether Austin could be an option to play first base at Triple-A, Cashman said no.