Yankees Losing Sight of Big Picture By Benching Tyler Austin
New York Yankees rookie first baseman Tyler Austin has not started a game since the team signed veteran castoff Billy Butler last Thursday.
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi needs to have a long, soul-searching look in the mirror before Wednesday night’s game and admit to himself that his club is no longer a contender for the playoffs this year. Contenders do not start Billy Butler, Ronald Torreyes, and Donovan Solano in the same infield.
That being the case, the skipper has to shift gears and use the remaining contests remaining to him to give valuable big league experience to the young players New York hopes to build around the next few years.
One of those Baby Bombers who has been sadly neglected over the past week is first baseman Tyler Austin, whom general manager Brian Cashman recently said will compete with Greg Bird for the starting 1B job next spring.
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Austin has admittedly been embroiled in yet another slump lately, going 1-for-15 in his last six appearances, but he has shown flashes of potential since his call up in mid-August and was absolutely dominating the International League for most of the season, hitting .323/.415/.637 in 234 plate appearances.
The 25-year-old didn’t exactly come out of nowhere either. Baseball America ranked him in their Top 100 list before the 2013 season before a lingering wrist injury sapped his production from 2013-2015. Finally healthy, Austin has bounced back in a big way and has a chance to provide the team with a much-needed solid power bat next year.
Girardi explained his reasoning for sitting the right-handed Austin against Rays lefty starter Drew Smyly in the series opener Tuesday, telling Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media:
"It was keeping Gary Sanchez‘s bat in the lineup. That was number one. Tex has seen Smyly and has some experience, so I’m going to play him. And Billy Butler is here to DH against lefties. So it’s not that I’ve lost faith in Tyler, but my guess is that he’ll probably play one of the games here this series, but coming off of an off day, I thought I’d put [Teixeira] out there."
Mark Teixeira is retiring following the 2016 season. His playing time simply should not be the priority. Even if Girardi is trying to get back in the playoff hunt, Teixeira has been one of the worst hitters in baseball this year. There is no reason to think he’s going to turn things around with 12 games left to play.
The fact that Teixeira has experience against Smyly is great, but probably shouldn’t be the primary factor in Girardi’s decision-making at this point. He’s 3-for-13 in his career against the Rays lefty, he doesn’t exactly own him.
And yes, Billy Butler has hit well since joining the team, but unless New York plans to bring him back for next year, Austin needs to be the priority. Butler was supposed to be taking at-bats away from Austin Romine as the DH against lefties, not Austin.
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Girardi needs to take the long view with these remaining couple of weeks and do what’s best for the 2017 Yankees and beyond.