ARLINGTON -- The Yankees' powerful lineup could add more muscle this weekend, with Greg Bird moving closer to a big league return. But his arrival may not necessarily spell bad news for Christopher Austin, who has done enough in manager Aaron Boone's eyes to retain a place on the roster."We'll
ARLINGTON -- The Yankees' powerful lineup could add more muscle this weekend, with Greg Bird moving closer to a big league return. But his arrival may not necessarily spell bad news for Christopher Austin, who has done enough in manager Aaron Boone's eyes to retain a place on the roster.
"We'll see how that plays out, and we'll see matchups and stuff," Boone said on Tuesday. "Tyler's put himself in a very good position. He's having a lot of success. He's having a big hand in us winning games, so I definitely see a role for both of them."
With Bird shelved as he recovers from surgery on his right ankle, Austin and Neil Walker have split duties at first base. The right-handed-hitting Austin entered play on Tuesday leading all American League rookies in home runs (eight) and RBIs (24), ranking second in the circuit with 14 extra-base hits and tied for fifth with 16 runs scored.
Meanwhile, Bird continues to clip away with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, closing in on the end of his Minor League rehab assignment. He homered for the RailRiders on Monday.
Bird is 5-for-26 with two homers and five RBIs over his nine games in the Minors, working nine walks against six strikeouts for a .400 on-base percentage and .423 slugging percentage. Boone said that there is a chance Bird could rejoin the Yankees on Saturday or Sunday during the series against the Angels.
"We feel like he's built some momentum swinging the bat down there," Boone said. "We feel like the reports we're getting are positive, so the expectation is [for Bird] to walk into our lineup, and [we are] expecting an impact player."
Bird, 25, hit .190/.288/.422 in 48 regular-season games for the Yankees last season, slugging seven doubles and nine homers and recording 28 RBIs. He hit .244/.426/.512 in 13 postseason games with three homers, including a deciding blast off the Indians' Andrew Miller in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
"I talk to you guys all the time about controlling the strike zone, and he's really elite at doing that," Boone said. "The ability to control the zone, the power, he's shown the ability to handle lefties, I think he's a quality defender at first base. There's a reason why us as an organization get excited when we see a healthy Greg Bird. We know he can really be an impact player."
Boone said that the Yankees have not yet decided if they will remain at 13 pitchers going forward, calling the situation "fluid." Deleting a reliever could allow the team to keep Austin, Bird, Miguel Andujar, Ronald Torreyes and Walker active in the short-term.
Tommy Kahnle allowed a run on three hits in his two-inning start for Class A Charleston on Monday, serving up a solo home run while walking none and striking out two. The rehabbing right-hander threw 20 of 29 pitches for strikes and remains on track to rejoin the Yankees this weekend.
"The velocity was good," Boone said. "[Pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] watched it and said he looked pretty good. That was big, to be able to get two innings under his belt. Now he'll probably go again Wednesday and be in a position then to make a decision."
This date in Yankees history
May 22, 1963: Mickey Mantle ended an 11-inning contest against the Athletics with a long home run off right-hander Bill Fischer, striking the frieze above the upper deck in right field and giving the Yankees an 8-7 victory. It was the second time in Mantle's career that he struck the frieze; the Hall of Famer would call it "the hardest ball I ever hit."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.