Mark who?

With the continued emergence of rookie first baseman Greg Bird, Mark Teixeira's absence from the lineup with a right leg bone bruise has become downgraded from a crisis to nearly an afterthought.

Teixeira's progress -- or lack thereof -- has barely been mentioned lately, especially Monday, when Bird broke a 5-5 tie with a three-run home run in the seventh as the Yankees beat the Orioles, 8-6.

For now, Tex messaging is out. Bird-watching is in.

Bird has appeared in 22 games since being called up from Triple-A Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre in mid-August. He is batting .263 with five home runs and 17 runs batted in. The lefthanded batter has hit lefties, going 6-for-17 (.353) with a double and two homers.

Bird has gotten used to seeing his name on the lineup card, saying: "I guess so. I don't know how long he'll be out. I have to come in every day like I'm going to play, and that's kind of always been my approach whether I am or not.''

Bird was a quick study against Orioles lefthanded reliever Brian Matusz, who came in after Jorge Rondon walked leadoff batter Carlos Beltran and gave up a single to Chris Young. Bird watched some video of Matusz's delivery in a room near the Yankees' dugout but then rushed out to watch him in person.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"I like to get out on the field and watch some live pitches, too,'' he said. "To me, it's about the [batter's] box and seeing it in person. Video doesn't do it justice.''

Matusz quickly got ahead 0-and-2 and could have tried to get the rookie to go after a waste pitch, but Bird, expecting a fastball but prepared for an off-speed pitch, belted a slider into the back of the Yankees' bullpen in right-center. "Somewhere over the plate, probably more middle,'' he said of the pitch.

There was scant mention of Teixeira in Joe Girardi's postgame comments. "He's come up with some really big hits for us,'' Girardi said of Bird. "And he's a good hitter. We talked about him for a couple of years as he was rising through the ranks of the minor leagues . . . That's why we called him up, because we thought in Tex's absence, he could make an impact, and he's doing that. He's very calm . . . He has a plan, he knows what he wants to do. He doesn't get too high or too low. Same person every day. I don't think he has been nervous in this situation. I think his at-bats have been really good.''

Teixeira, who still leads the team with 31 home runs and is second with 79 RBIs, once was considered a strong candidate for the AL's Most Valuable Player award. He is said to be receiving treatment but there is no mention of progress.

Bird's performance has made it easier for Teixeira to take all the time he needs.