Yankees: Help! What’s going on at first base?

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

During spring training of 2017, the Yankees thought that they had it all figured out at first base.  With a surging Greg Bird, who seemed to have a home run in almost every game this spring, they went out and signed Chris Carter as an insurance option just in case anything happened.

And for the Yankees, something did happen, with Greg Bird hitting the disabled list with a bruised right ankle on May 2nd. The Yankees once again thought that everything would be okay with recently signed Chris Carter taking over the full-time job at first base.  Something that he has experience doing. That’s turned out to be only a wish and a prayer.

To say the least, this season has not gone the way the Yankees had hoped for at first base.  Greg Bird, after such a strong spring training performance, had an absolutely dreadful start to the 2017 season at the plate.  In 19 games with the Yankees this year, Bird was batting an abysmal .100 (6-for-72), with one home run, and 3 RBI’s.

Apparently, any person who knows baseball would look at that stat line and understand that Bird has not been playing the way he was supposed to.  His 2017 spring training statistics give a stark contrast to what he did in his first month as the Yankee’s everyday first basemen.

During spring training this year, Bird batted to the tune of a .451 batting average (23-for-51), with eight home runs, and 15 RBI’s.  This is much more of what the Yankees were expecting to see to start the season.  Unfortunately, he could not produce anything close to those numbers, or even something respectable.

Failing Under Pressure?

Currently, one of the most talked about players on the Yankees is Greg Bird’s replacement at first base, Chris Carter.  Carter, who has been known for his power during his 8-year big league career, has failed to produce for the Yankees.  Carter is currently batting .179 (19-for-106), with four home runs, and 14 RBI’s.

Many baseball fans will remember him leading the National League in home runs last year, hitting a career-high 41 home runs, and driving in 94 runs.  This set an unrealistic expectation for Yankees fans regarding what he would contribute to the team.

We have to remember that he is a career .217 batter who has a lot of fo power upside, and he has always played for much smaller market teams such as the Athletics, Astros, and Brewers.

Playing for a big market team like the Yankees is a whole different situation than Carter has ever been in.  For some players, being in the spotlight detracts from their performance on the field.  This has been seen over the years with players such as Kenny Rogers, Kyle Farnsworth, Kenny Lofton, Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, and Randy Johnson just to name a few.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman will have to make a decision about what to do with Carter when Greg Bird and Tyler Austin return from the disabled list.

It is not hard to believe that Cashman can’t be euphoric with his current first base situation, and he may be looking to release or trade Carter, especially with the return of Tyler Austin just started his rehab assignment at AA Trenton/AAA Scranton-Wilkes/Barre.

Is the Bird the Word?

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Greg Bird is on the path to recovery right now.  He played in his first simulated game for A Tampa on May 31st.  This is the first step in what is hopefully a very successful recovery.  Sometimes a bone bruise can be a lingering injury that is frustrating for any athlete.

After seeing what Bird did during spring training, and then the steep decline in production immediately after, it might be safe to think that he was playing with a very sore ankle.

This could be at least one of the reasons for his struggles.  Although baseball players have their natural ups and downs, this one stands out as being an anomaly.  There is just too much talent there to translate into such a poor start to the season.

When Greg Bird completes his rehab assignment at AAA Scranton-Wilkes/Barre, I believe that he will be fully ready to start producing again for the Yankees.  To say he will play to the caliber that he played at during spring training would be much too high of a bar to set for anyone, but he should come out and at least fortify the first base position and improve the production.

Look for Bird to get off to a hot start when he returns to the lineup.  A healthy Greg Bird could mean an even more potent offense for the Yankees.

What’s Going on with Tyler Austin?

As I said before, Tyler Austin is currently on a rehab assignment at AAA Scranton Wilkes/Barre preparing to make a comeback for the Yankees.  As soon as he is ready, I think GM Brian Cashman will be ready to let him be the backup first basemen for Greg Bird.

The injury bug has stung Austin this year, but knowing the kind of prospect that he is, he will make a full recovery and come back stronger and better than ever.

If Austin beats Bird back to the MLB then look for him to take over the full-time first base job from the struggling Chris Carter.  This will be a very welcome change for Yankees fans.

Austin has not yet been able to fully prove or establish himself in the Bronx, but just looking at his raw talent, he is another young player on the Yankees to watch this year.

Even though the Yankees have the worst production at first base in the MLB this year, the fans must trust in their GM who has made all the right moves recently.  Brian Cashman will figure out the woes at first base and solve them to the delight of the Yankees faithful.

Next: Yankees: Has Gary Sánchez Become Under Appreciated?

There is so much hope at first base for the Yankees.  It is just going to take time and patience, but the Yankees and their fans will be rewarded with all the talent that is stacked up in the organization.

Look for the Yankees to release Chris Carter, and call up Tyler Austin.  If this happens, it should be a sigh of relief for all Yankees fans.