Cashman: Carter still Yanks' best bet at 1B

Bird slowly progressing; strikeouts remain an issue for Austin in Minors

June 21st, 2017

NEW YORK -- The Yankees are hopeful that a cortisone injection will permit Greg Bird to resume baseball activities in three to five days, but for the time being, general manager Brian Cashman said that Chris Carter remains the organization's best alternative at first base.

Carter did not exactly receive a ringing endorsement after he went 0-for-3 with a costly error in New York's 8-3 loss to the Angels on Tuesday, as manager Joe Girardi referred to an inquiry about the veteran's status by replying, "That's what we have," at first base.

"I think he'd like to come up with a better option if we had one, and we don't," Cashman said of Girardi. "So he's asked the questions, which is normal. Joe wants to impact that win column like I do and like we all do, so we'll focus on getting what we have right and trying to maximize their potential, because they haven't reached it in the pinstripes, at least in Chris' case."

First base was not an area where the Yankees thought they would be caught short after signing Carter to a $3.5 million deal in February as an insurance policy for a position where they already had Bird and , their No. 14 prospect, according to

Bird batted just .100 in 60 at-bats before going on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his right ankle. His Minor League rehab assignment was cut short by what has been diagnosed as inflammation in the ankle; Bird visited with specialist Robert Anderson on Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.

"I know what Greg Bird is capable of when he's healthy and feeling right, and it's all in line," Cashman said.

Carter has not taken advantage of the opportunity, batting .201/.287/.384 with eight homers and 23 RBIs in 54 games, though four of those homers have come in June (.746 OPS). Carter was benched on Wednesday in favor of , who started his seventh game of the year at first base.

"I think I'm just missing fastballs," Carter said. "I'm getting pitches to hit and popping them up or just missing them. I've got to hit those pitches I'm getting."

Austin, who has been playing for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after missing all of Spring Training with a fractured left foot, is hitting .287/.357/.494 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 24 games. Cashman indicated that Austin's strikeout rate (30 in 115 plate appearances across two Minor League levels this year) remains a concern.

"Do I think Tyler Austin will be back in the big leagues at some point this year? I think the answer to that is yes," Cashman said. "Do I think we're better served right now by staying with Chris Carter? The answer to that is yes."

Carter has struck out at a 36.4 percent clip (66 in 181 plate appearances), but Cashman said that the Yankees understand that is part of the package with him. Carter led the National League with 41 homers last season for the Brewers but also paced the circuit with 206 strikeouts.

"If he has a typical year, yeah, strikeouts are there, but there are a lot of home runs that come with it," Cashman said. "Unfortunately, we haven't had the good stuff that comes with the bad stuff.

"But he's working his tail off. He cares. He wants to do well. Austin's fighting his way to get back up here at the same time, and maybe we get some positive news sooner rather than later that Greg feels like he's back on track."