TAMPA, Fla. -- Since unpacking his bags in Yankees camp about two weeks ago, Neil Walker has split his spring reps between first base and second base, intending to be prepared for whatever playing time could come his way.
With the Yankees announcing on Monday that Greg Bird will undergo surgery on his right foot and be out six to eight weeks, Walker is likely to handle first base on Opening Day. It is an assignment that the 32-year-old is ready to take on.
"More than anything, you don't like to hear that [about] Greg ... Whatever role I'm asked to be in is what I'm going to do," Walker said.
With Bird headed for the DL, Christopher Austin is also a candidate to be brought back from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Austin started at first base against the Rays on Sunday, striking out in both of his plate appearances.
"I think we'll be fine, no matter what it is," manager Aaron Boone told reporters in Port Charlotte, Fla. "We feel very good about the guys, if it's Tyler that needs to step in there. Obviously, bringing Neil Walker in gives you flexibility. But as things come up over the course of the season, we feel pretty good if we go reach down even further and pull somebody up.
"We feel like we have depth that's knocking on the door of being big league players. Sometimes it's a war of attrition. In Major League sports, you've got to have depth, because you can get clipped by the injury bug at some point. We feel like we can withstand it, and we're equipped to handle it."
Primarily a second baseman, Walker played 17 games (eight starts) at first base last season for the Mets and Brewers. He has also been taking ground balls at third base, where he appeared in four games last year.
"Taking ground balls and the throw to second are the things that you need to do to get reps on, just with guys moving, runners moving, double-play situations and all that," Walker said. "Nothing I haven't experienced before. It's like anything else; the more reps you get, the more comfortable you'll be."
Drury back in action
Third baseman Brandon Drury said on Sunday that he is prepared to play in Monday's exhibition against the Braves in Atlanta. Drury was hit on the left elbow by an 87-mph Christopher Johnson fastball on Friday against the Red Sox, and went through a full workout on Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"He actually tried to, as late as last night, get onto the trip [to play the Rays in Port Charlotte]," Boone said. "I think he's going to be fine."
In addition to the 25-man roster, several Minor Leaguers are scheduled to make the trip to Atlanta. The travel party includes pitchers Cody Carroll, Giovanny Gallegos, Joe Harvey, Ben Heller, J.P. Feyereisen and David Sosebee; catcher Francisco Diaz; infielders Abiatal Avelino and Diego Castillo; and outfielders Trey Amburgey, Billy McKinney and Shane Robinson.