Yankees activate 1B Greg Bird, send Torreyes to Triple-A
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The diminutive and popular Torreyes, batting .339 in a backup role, was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Friday night's victory over the Los Angeles Angels. Bird was reinstated from the disabled list Saturday and started at first base, batting sixth. He had been sidelined since having right ankle surgery on March 27.
"I feel like I'm going to hit the ground running. We've got a great team and I'm excited to be back," Bird said. "I'm ready to go every day."
He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts as the Yankees lost 11-4 to the Angels.
"Great being out there. Obviously, would've liked a different result," Bird said. "But it felt great being out there, really. And I think it's just only going to keep getting better."
Rather than demote first baseman Tyler Austin or one of their eight relief pitchers, the Yankees chose to send down Torreyes, who has a solid .785 OPS in 22 games and can play several positions.
"Obviously, a very difficult decision for us," manager Aaron Boone said. "Hopefully, it's something that's temporary. I mean, for what Toe means to our team, to our clubhouse, to the guys in that room, to the way he performs, certainly not deserved. You know, with 14 games over 13 days I think we just felt like we needed the extra pitcher through this time. Feel like other guys have very much thrown themselves into the mix as far as deserving to be here - Toe included. So, a very difficult decision was made and it made for a difficult night."
The 25-year-old Bird made his big league debut in 2015 and had 11 homers and 31 RBIs in 46 games. He missed 2016 after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Last year, Bird hit .451 with eight homers in spring training, but fouled a ball off his right ankle March 30, started the season 6 for 60 and went on the disabled list May 2. When the foot did not improve, Bird had surgery July 18 to remove a bone in the ankle.
Bird returned Aug. 26 and hit .253 with eight homers and 25 RBIs in 29 games, then batted .241 three homers and six RBIs in 13 playoff games.
He hit just .154 in 52 at-bats during spring training this year with one homer, one double and four RBIs. Bird went 8 for 39 (.205) with three homers and eight RBIs over 12 games in a minor league injury rehabilitation assignment.
"I consider Birdie an everyday player, but Tyler Austin's put himself in a position to garner some at-bats, too, especially against left-handed pitching," Boone said. "There's probably scenarios where you could see them both in the lineup, too, on days against certain left-handed pitching as well. We have a lot of players that have earned playing time, frankly. And so we'll try and balance that the best we can."
Austin, who can be optioned to the minors, entered Saturday batting .231 with eight homers, 23 RBIs and an .809 OPS. The rookie was hitless in his last 14 at-bats.
With Torreyes gone, Boone said rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres would be the primary option to spell shortstop Didi Gregorius when needed, and veteran switch-hitter Neil Walker could fill in at second or third.
Torres played mostly shortstop in the minors before this season.
"I think it's best to protect the staff with 13 pitchers, even though I'd prefer to be at 12," general manager Brian Cashman told reporters. "I think that 13th pitcher is important for us."
ELLSBURY SHUT DOWN
Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, sidelined all season by oblique, foot and hip injuries, has a new problem - this time with his back. He isn't participating in baseball activities at the team's complex in Florida but is receiving treatment on his back.
"We'll get him going again when he's cleared to do so," Cashman said.
The 34-year-old Ellsbury, who lost his starting job in center field last year, has a $153 million, seven-year contract that runs through 2020 and includes a $21 million team option for 2021 with a $5 million buyout.
"Everything that he's got has been diagnosed legitimately by a doctor. It's frustrating, without question. But it's also, upon diagnosis, a future expectation of return to play," Cashman said. "He just keeps kicking the can down the road because he's had a series of different circumstances that stalled his rehab. That's unique. That's something we haven't experienced, where we've had four or five different separate distinct injuries while he's on rehab. But every case, the expectation is at some point he'll push himself back in the mix."
"It would be nice to have a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury push himself back into our world because he'd be a nice asset to deploy and utilize," the GM added. "Now I've got mentally prepared for it not being anytime soon, but I'm not prepared for him not to be here at some point. I expect that to happen."
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Updated May 27, 2018