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Bird OK, scratched for extra precaution

Lefty Tarpley receives James P. Dawson Award; Gonzalez makes Yankees debut
@BryanHoch
March 23, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. -- Greg Bird participated in batting practice on Saturday, but he was scratched from the Yankees' lineup about 90 minutes prior to the first pitch of their 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays, prompting concerns about yet another late-spring injury for the first baseman. That is not the

TAMPA, Fla. -- Greg Bird participated in batting practice on Saturday, but he was scratched from the Yankees' lineup about 90 minutes prior to the first pitch of their 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays, prompting concerns about yet another late-spring injury for the first baseman.

That is not the case, said manager Aaron Boone, who called reporters into his office at George M. Steinbrenner Field and explained that Bird was removed from the lineup out of an abundance of caution.

"Bird's fine," Boone said. "I decided one more day, because he's going to play [Sunday]. He took BP today and felt good. It's nothing more than me saying I want to wait one more day on it. I decided I'd rather have all the swelling out and it not be an issue."

Bird was hit on his right elbow by a pitch in the first inning of Wednesday's loss to the Astros in West Palm Beach, Fla., saying that it missed the protective guard he was wearing. Bird returned to Tampa for an MRI and CT scan on Thursday, both of which came back clean, according to the team.

Assuming that Bird is healthy, he projects to be on the Yankees' Opening Day roster, as does Luke Voit. The players entered the spring in competition to handle duties at first base, and though general manager Brian Cashman did not initially envision carrying two first basemen, Aaron Hicks' lingering lower back injury will permit the Yankees to carry both Bird and Voit.

High praise

Putting the finishing touches on an impressive spring that will likely result in a spot on the Opening Day roster, Stephen Tarpley was announced on Saturday as the recipient of the James P. Dawson Award, given annually to the most outstanding Yankees rookie in Spring Training.

The 26-year-old lefty held opponents scoreless in 11 1/3 innings over 10 appearances, allowing six hits and a walk with eight strikeouts. Tarpley debuted with the Yankees last September, making 10 appearances before pitching in the American League Division Series against the Red Sox.

"I loved every second of it," Tarpley said. "I still think about it all the time. That was like, 'OK, this is what the league is like, this is what you're going to be facing.' I want to build off that and get better. All I can do is focus on staying healthy and keep my mind in the right place so that when my name is called, I'm able to go out there and perform."

Acquired as part of the Aug. 1, 2016 trade that sent Ivan Nova to the Pirates, Tarpley said that he lost about 25 pounds from the midpoint of last season, trimming his weight from 240 to 215 mostly by reducing his sugar intake and consuming more greens and proteins. That, and an increased program in the weight room, appears to have paid dividends this spring.

"I was just making better decisions," Tarpley said. "I lost some weight and came in feeling good, feeling a little lighter, but the same guy and the same explosive mentality. I still have my Taco Bell now and then. I'll have a cheat meal of Five Guys [hamburgers] or something like that. Nobody's perfect, but when I can, I make better decisions."

Hit hard

After spending his offseason pitching to high school and college hitters in the Miami area, Gio Gonzalez received a not-so-welcome reminder of how talented a professional lineup can be. The veteran was knocked for five runs (four earned), four hits and two walks over two innings by the Blue Jays -- including a two-run homer by Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

"Believe it or not, it was a lot better than I expected," Gonzalez said. "I wasn't drastically all over the place. Some of my pitches were borderline strikes. That's a good approach, in my opinion. I'm just a tick off. It's not that far off. There was nothing to the backstop, nothing buried, nothing far over their heads. To me, that says a lot."

Gonzalez signed a Minor League contract this past week that will pay him a base salary of $3 million in the Majors, plus $300,000 for each start he makes. He can opt out on April 20. Gonzalez said that his changeup and two-seam fastball seemed to be working, though the Blue Jays feasted on his breaking ball.

"Obviously, you want to have a different kind of welcome here, but I have to take it with a grain of salt," Gonzalez said. "I'm still working, I'm still trying to get myself into the best shape I can. I'll be prepared for when the time comes."

Up next

The Yankees conclude their Grapefruit League schedule on Sunday as they visit the Twins in Fort Myers, Fla. for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Left-hander James Paxton will draw the start for New York, with Martin Pérez starting for Minnesota. Following the game, the Yankees will travel to Washington, D.C. for an exhibition to be played on Monday.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.