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Greg Bird closer to return, but Aaron Boone sees role for Tyler Austin

Yankees manager to look for ways to use both lefthanded hitters.

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird bats during a

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird bats during a spring training game against the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa. Fla., on Feb. 23. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

ARLINGTON, Texas — Aaron Boone bumped up Greg Bird’s timetable just a tad, saying the first baseman possibly could return “sometime this weekend.”

But Boone didn’t say Bird, currently rehabbing with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, would immediately resume everyday duties at first.

“We’ll see how that plays out,” Boone said.

It was not a critique of Bird, rather it was an acknowledgment of what Tyler Austin has done.

“Tyler’s put himself in a very good position,” Boone said.

Austin entered Tuesday hitting .247 but with eight homers and an .865 OPS. The 26-year-old has been especially hard on lefthanders, hitting .324 with a 1.098 OPS and four of his homers against them.

“He’s having a lot of success, having a big hand in us winning games,” Boone said. “I definitely see a role, potentially, for both of them.”

When Bird does play, Boone said he very well could be in the three-hole.

“One of the things I’m trying to do as best I can is I like to split up our lefties,” Boone said. “It also depends on the opponent, not only the starting pitcher that day but how we evaluate their bullpen and how we like to split up guys based on the matchups we could see late in the game.”

Kahnle close

Tommy Kahnle (right shoulder tendinitis) allowed three hits and a run in a two-inning rehab outing Monday night with Low-A Charleston.

“The velocity was good,” Boone said. “Larry [Rothschild] watched it and said he looked pretty good.”

Boone said Kahnle, out since April 16, likely will pitch again Wednesday with a return to the majors not too far after that.

Tanaka-Ohtani Sunday

Boone said the Yankees will stay in rotation, meaning Masahiro Tanaka will face Angels righty Shohei Ohtani, a fellow countryman who has been electric on the mound and at the plate, Sunday afternoon at the Stadium.

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