TAMPA, Fla. -- Having Greg Bird's left-handed stroke in the lineup for a full big league campaign is a tantalizing fantasy for the Yankees, enough so that general manager Brian Cashman was content to roll into the regular season despite a perceived lack of depth at first base.
It is a gamble. Since Bird was limited to just 48 regular-season games by a right ankle injury in 2017, alarm bells sounded on Saturday in Yankees camp when Bird was scratched from a split-squad lineup against the Braves in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., complaining of soreness in his right foot.
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Removed from the lineup by bench coach Josh Bard, Bird traveled back to Tampa, where an MRI and CT scan revealed right foot inflammation, the Yankees announced. Bird is scheduled to be evaluated by foot specialist Dr. Martin O'Malley on Monday in New York.
"I'm worried about it, to be honest," Cashman said before Bird underwent the MRI and CT scan. "I'm not sure what we're dealing with, but when Greg can't tee it up, it's a problem for us because obviously he's a vital member of our organization. We're deep and we have other people who can pick up the slack, so hopefully it won't be long."
The 25-year-old Bird has batted .154 (8-for-52) with a double, a home run and four RBIs in 18 spring games.
Cashman said that Bird told him there was discomfort in the ankle after playing nine innings at first base in Friday's 5-0 Grapefruit League loss to the Red Sox. He did not seek treatment, and the discomfort intensified after batting practice on Saturday at the Braves' spring home.
"You understand what we think of him as a player and what we believe his ceiling is, so the biggest thing for him to be able to prove that would be his health," manager Aaron Boone said. "We think that's the only thing that stands in his way of being a premium player."
Last spring, Bird fouled a ball off his right ankle in the team's final Grapefruit League exhibition on March 30, forcing him to leave a game against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla. Initially diagnosed as a contusion, that incident set off a sequence of events that saw Bird undergo surgery in July.
Bird returned in late August and contributed some of the Yankees' biggest hits of the stretch drive, including three postseason homers. Cashman said that the current injury is in a "similar area" to last year's issue.
Should Bird not be ready for the opening of the season, Neil Walker could see time at first base, and the Yankees could recall infielder-outfielder Christopher Austin, who was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday. The Yankees had veteran Adam Lind in camp, but he was released on March 14. In addition, first baseman Mike Ford, who was selected by the Mariners in the Rule 5 Draft last December, was returned to the team on Saturday.
Third baseman Miguel Andujar has also been working out at first base in Minor League camp following his demotion last week, and Cashman said that Andujar is expected to play about 20 percent of his games at first base this season.
"You go with what you've got," Cashman said. "Neil Walker's import here recently becomes even that much more beneficial. Tyler Austin had a really good camp. It's important to have depth. You'd rather not rely on it, but we have some depth that we can turn to. First things first, we have to see if we're in a position to have to or not."