Murti: Bird, Voit Have Left Yankees With Incredibly Difficult 1B Decision

Despite Strong Camps, One Is Inevitably Bound For Scranton

Sweeny Murti
March 20, 2019 - 2:01 pm
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First base was the only real spring training battle the Yankees had coming into camp, and it’s a fight that’s going the distance.

Through 16 games entering Wednesday's contest against the Astros, Greg Bird is batting .342/.479/.658. He is 13-for-38 with three homers, three doubles and 10 walks to nine strikeouts. 

In 13 games, Luke Voit is batting .294/.385/.676. He is 10-for-34 with four homers, one double and five walks to nine strikeouts. 

The Yankees have to pick one to be their first baseman and send the other one to Triple-A because their roster (with 13 pitchers) doesn’t support a first base/DH-only bench player.

Yankees first basemen Luke Voit and Greg Bird
USA TODAY Images

But the decision has been delayed because of the back injury that has sidelined Aaron Hicks until at least April 4. It might not be longer than that, since the Yankees don’t consider it a long-term injury, but it does give them a little more time to decide which player they have to disappoint with a demotion.

“With Hicks out, there’s more playing time to go around, conceivably, and with the DH and first base, I think you have some flexibility there if we go with both of them,” manager Aaron Boone said Wednesday. “So whether one’s playing first one day and the other is DH’ing or things like that, they’re both in the lineup.

“We’re still putting our roster together based on some of the injuries and moving parts we now have, so (we’re) not quite ready to go there yet,” Boone said. “We’re kind of taking this day by day right now, and I’m watching two really good players.”

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Again, this is a solution that only works for a few short days. So how to choose between Voit (the incumbent) and Bird (the challenger)?

“I look at it as we have two impact players,” Boone said. “And there’s no doubt in my mind where both of those guys are right now. 

“Bird’s been a different guy this year. He’s been the guy we’ve been waiting on. He looks that part right now. But then Luke has come in and picked up where he left off last year. 

“Both guys are controlling the strike zone. Both guys are impacting the ball. Both guys have done everything we could have hoped for. So now moving forward, we haven’t necessarily revealed anything, but there’s now a scenario where both of them can certainly factor in on a regular basis at least early in the season.”

They say that usually these things work themselves out -- one player gets hurt or one player clearly outperforms the other. It hasn’t happened that way this spring. Both Voit and Bird came to camp to win the job, and they have played like it.

“To see Greg Bird physically this spring after all he went through last year has been really exciting,” Boone said. “But Luke came in and worked his butt off to have his body in a good place. I think he’s made strides defensively. He’s worked really hard in that area and continued to be the guy we saw last year (at the plate). So I think it’s clear where I’m at with these guys.”

And that is a place where Boone and the Yankees have to choose between two players who are performing at their best. It can be an envious place considering the alternatives, but it’s also a place that forces one player to eventually accept that he lost the fight.