Yankees: Tyler Austin has impressed in his quest for roster spot

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 19: Chris Sale
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 19: Chris Sale /

Coming into the spring this was supposed to be the season Tyler Austin was finally healthy and ready to contribute with the Yankees at the big league level.

Last year, Austin was in the running for a bench spot with the Yankees out of camp, but a foul ball off his left foot caused a fracture and ended any hopes of being ready for Opening Day. Unfortunately when the same thing happened to Greg Bird and he eventually had to miss extended time Austin wasn’t available to step in as his replacement. Instead, it was Chris Carter and the Yankee first base situation was a disaster for the first half of the season.

Austin recovered to join the team in late June, but a hamstring injury sidelined him again and he would be a non-factor for the rest of the season. This year he hopes it will be a different story.

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So far this spring Austin looks like he has the inside track on the back-up first base job after slugging his fourth home run in yesterday’s win over the Pirates. Austin now has an impressive 1.127 OPS in 25 at-bats. He’s shown excellent power to the opposite field and he’s really looked like someone who belongs at the big league level.

In the past two years, Austin has shown flashes during his limited time in the big leagues, which includes some big moments against a pair of All-Star pitchers from the rival Red Sox.

Last year he launched a home run off Chris Sale completely out of Fenway Park and in 2016 he took David Price deep as well. That’s against two of the best left-handers the AL East has to offer. Two pitchers the Yankees will see plenty of in 2018.

In his young big league career, Austin has posted a .361 average against southpaws. That could definitely be useful once the season rolls around and makes you think that’s the role he will be asked to fill if he can make this year’s club. Greg Bird can certainly hit lefties himself but there will come a time when a guy like Sale is on the mound and Aaron Boone might want to give a spot start to Austin. That’s a luxury any manager would love to have at his disposal.

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With 14 days left until Opening Day Austin still has more work to do to win the job. However, after the Yankees released veteran first basemen Adam Lind following the Neil Walker signing it appears a path to the big leagues is right in front of him. This is the chance Austin has been waiting for and health is finally on his side. Now it’s up to him to take the opportunity and run with it.