ATLANTA — The news regarding Greg Bird could have been worse, but it was far from good.
The Yankees announced Monday afternoon that the first baseman will undergo surgery Tuesday to “remove a small broken spur on the outside aspect of his right ankle” and will miss at least six to eight weeks.
“Obviously, we were hoping it would be a shorter-term thing,” Aaron Boone said before the Yankees’ 5-1 exhibition win over the Braves on Monday night at SunTrust Park. “But we feel like we got some answers, we feel like we know what the surgery’s going to accomplish and we feel like the six-to-eight-week timeline should be workable. Hopefully this is something [that] will now [be] put behind him for good.”
The righthanded-hitting Tyler Austin, 26, was added to the 25-man roster. He’ll get time at first base, as will switch-hitting second baseman Neil Walker. Boone said “we’ll play the matchup game’’ in determining who plays there on a daily basis, a situation aided by the versatile Tyler Wade, who can play second, third, shortstop and the corner outfield positions.
“You’ll see different combinations [like] Walker at first, Wade at second; Austin at first, Walker at second,” Boone said. “We’re certainly going to miss Greg, but we feel good about what we can do from a matchup standpoint with those guys. We feel Tyler Austin’s ready for this opportunity.”
The possibility of bringing in someone such as veteran Adam Lind, who remains available after signing a minor-league deal with the Yankees on March 2 and being released March 14, can’t be outright dismissed, either.
Bird’s procedure will be performed by orthopedic specialist Dr. Martin O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery. O’Malley performed surgery on Bird’s right foot last season.
Bird fouled a ball off his right foot on the last day of spring training 2017 and was diagnosed with a severe bone bruise. On July 18, he had surgery that included the removal of the os trigonum bone in the foot.
Dr. Armin Tehrany, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care, said that contrary to many of the assumptions out there, the two aren’t necessarily related.
“It’s purely coincidence,” Tehrany said by phone early Monday night. “They’re different issues. Just like the removal surgery on the other side [the os trigonum], which takes care of the problem, this removal of the broken spur should resolve the problem.”
Even though he struggled at the plate throughout spring training, Bird was healthy, by all accounts. But he complained of discomfort in the foot after Friday’s game against Boston in Tampa, and after taking batting practice on Saturday morning in Kissimmee, he felt soreness and was a last-minute scratch for that afternoon’s game against the Braves. He was evaluated in Tampa on Saturday afternoon and in New York on Monday morning with O’Malley, who recommended the surgery.
“I think there probably is an option to not necessarily [do] the surgery, but I think the surgery makes us feel like we knock out the problem,” said Boone, who described Bird as “fairly upbeat” when the two talked earlier in the day. “When we all sat down and figured the best course forward, we feel like surgery ends it. It costs us some time from a weeks [missed] standpoint, but maybe grinding through this, maybe you’re just kicking the can down the road a little bit.”
Though there’s been some thought that Bird might have been trying to manage the pain for days, or even weeks, before finally mentioning something Friday, Tehrany said, “In my experience, it’s not odd at all. We assume when something crops up that’s serious, we assume our body’s going to let us know immediately. It doesn’t work that way. He may have had that for quite some time; he just never really noticed it until recently.”