Chris Carter has at least one important person in his corner, even if it is not Yankees manager Joe Girardi.
Addressing reporters before Wednesday night’s game against the Angels, general manager Brian Cashman essentially said the struggling first baseman is the Yankees’ best available option.
“We’ve struggled at this position the entire year,” Cashman said. “Carter’s had a better June. As we look through and evaluate Carter versus (Tyler) Austin versus any other alternatives, Carter right now is still the best alternative.”
Girardi did not disagree outright, but he said repeatedly during his pregame news conference that keeping Carter was the “organization’s decision.”
Greg Bird has not played a major-league game since May 1, when he went on the disabled list with a .100 average and an ankle issue that has not gone away. Girardi said Bird received a cortisone shot Wednesday, and the expectation is he can “resume baseball activities in three to five days.” Girardi did not specify how soon Bird could return to the majors.
In Bird’s absence, Carter has started most of the time. Entering Wednesday night’s game, Carter was only three games — and an 0-for-10 slide — removed from a 10-game stretch in which he hit .316 with four home runs and nine RBIs. But Carter, who shared the 2016 National League home run title with 41, has struggled, batting .201 with eight home runs and a 36.5-percent strikeout rate.
“I think (Girardi would) like to come up with a better option if we had one, and we don’t. So he’ll ask questions, which is normal,” Cashman said. “Listen, first base, we are at the bottom of the production list for that position despite entering the season thinking we had more than enough coverage. That’s baseball. Joe wants to pack the win column like I do, and like we all do.”
A day after making a costly error in the Yankees’ 8-3 loss to the Angels, Carter only appeared Wednesday as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. Girardi said he started Matt Holliday at first base to open the DH spot for Gary Sanchez, but his remarks on Carter fell short of being supportive less than 24 hours after he bluntly said, “That’s what we have,” when asked about Carter’s future as the team’s first baseman.
“Timeout,” Girardi said Wednesday when asked if he would choose to release Carter. “I manage the players they give me. That’s my job. That’s a question for Brian (Cashman).”
Holliday hit a solo homer for a 3-2 lead in the fifth but showed his defensive shortcomings as a potential semi-regular replacement at first. In the second inning, he let Andrelton Simmons’ routine foul pop-up drop. Jordan Montgomery, who allowed two earned runs over 5 2⁄3 for the win, picked Holliday up by striking out Simmons.
Cashman said Austin, 25, still has not proved he is ready to supplant Carter. He has a .287/.357/.494 slashline with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, but he has homered just twice and struck out 28 times in 98 plate appearances.
“We’re hopeful we get to the point where Chris can get it going,” Cashman said. “Our job is to maximize what we’ve got here, and we’ve got some guys here who aren’t doing what we hoped they could do at the very least.”
Carter took early batting practice with Sanchez. When asked if he is pressing, he said, “No, just working, stay with the process and keep going.”