If the New York Yankees want to contend for even a postseason berth in 2017, a handful of questions still need to be answered.
Starting with filling the void left by Mark Texiera's retirement, the team has a decision to make at first base. In the eight years since Mark Teixeira arrived in New York, only one other player started as many as 45 games at first base for the Yankees.
That was Lyle Overbay, a last-minute substitution after Teixeira hurt his wrist during 2013’s spring training. When Teixeira was healthy, he was among the best first basemen in the game. Although that’s not how Tex finished his career, memories of what once was will make filling the position a difficult task.
Rookie Greg Bird, Matt Holliday or Tyler Austin on First
Enter Greg Bird. In 46 games as a rookie, Bird batted .261 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs before missing all of 2016 following shoulder surgery. He returned to play in the Arizona Fall League where he was a teammate of Tim Tebow, but was mostly limited to DHing because he was late to be cleared to make full throws. Bird is also a lefty hitter poised to perform well in New York due to the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.
“Greg Bird is a young man who came up and did a really good job for us. Obviously he is coming off an injury and our hope is that he will play fall ball and he will be ready to go next year,” Joe Girardi said.
When free agent Matt Holliday signed a one-year contract for $13 million recently, there was talk he could play some first base, but the right-handed hitter has appeared there only 10 times in a 13-year career and will serve mainly as the Yankees’ DH.
Tyler Austin, a fan favorite, is the more probable second option. Austin's journey to the Bronx has been a long and grueling one. The right handed hitter was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 17-years old. He was ultimately selected by the Yankees in the 13th round of the 2010 draft during his senior year of high school. After multiple assigments in the minors, he managed to homer in his first career at-bat becoming part of a memorable introduction of Yankees' rookies.
"Tyler Austin was a big prospect for us and he went through some injuries, said Girardi. He is healthy and playing extremely well and something we will take a look at.”
That could set up an in-house competition to replace Teixeira however, the position is still Bird’s job to lose.