The most potent offense in baseball is about to get even stronger Saturday, when the Yankees — who lead the major leagues in home runs, slugging percentage and runs — will get first baseman Greg Bird back.
Manager Aaron Boone said Friday that the Yankees plan to recall Bird, who has been out all season after having surgery to remove a bone spur from his troublesome right ankle, from a rehabilitation assignment. He will be in the lineup on Saturday at Yankee Stadium against the Los Angeles Angels.
Bird has played only 48 games since the end of the 2015 season, but when he is healthy he provides the Yankees some left-handed thump in the middle of the order to balance out right-handed sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.
Bird’s home run off Cleveland left-hander Andrew Miller — one of three he hit in the playoffs last season — helped lift the Yankees to a 1-0 win in Game 3 of the American League division series, which launched their comeback.
But near the end of a poor spring training, Bird told Yankees trainers that his ankle — which he had surgery on last season — had been bothering him. Doctors then discovered the bone spur, which required surgery.
Bird played 12 games at three minor-league levels in his rehab assignment, including the final four at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he hit two home runs this week.
“We feel like physically, timing wise, all those things he’s in a pretty good place right now,” Boone said. “He had most of spring training with us, played a number of games. We feel like he’s as ready as he can be.”
Bird’s return could prompt a demotion for Tyler Austin, who has hit eight home runs in only 111 plate appearances. The Yankees could decide to carry one fewer pitcher, but they began a stretch of 14 games in 13 days on Friday. Also, Austin, who has yet to consistently hit right-handed pitching, has only one position — first base — and he has minor league options.