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Neil Walker starts in outfield for first time, gets passing grade

The Yankees' Neil Walker reacts after his sixth-inning

The Yankees' Neil Walker reacts after his sixth-inning RBI single against the Rangers at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

As far as Aaron Boone is concerned, Neil Walker is the right man for the right job.

Walker, a natural infielder, made his first career start in the outfield Saturday, playing rightfield for the injury-ravaged Yankees, and aced his first test, Boone said. Walker did look a bit awkward while diving for Joey Gallo’s double far to his left in the second inning, but he made a nice grab on Shin-Soo Choo’s long drive hit to his right in the fifth and looked perfectly capable.

“Absolutely — heck yeah,” Boone said enthusiastically when asked if Walker will be considered for fill-in duties in the future. “I thought he covered some ground and handled it properly … When Choo hit the ball over his right shoulder [in the fifth], I kind of held my breath for a second and he looked the part, right? Yeah, I thought he did well out there.”

Walker, who homered from each side of the plate on Thursday night but sat out Friday night’s game with a sore neck and an illness, had an RBI single in the sixth and kept right on going, reaching second even though the throw from leftfield was cut off.

Bird’s the word

Greg Bird, who had two doubles, collected his first extra-base hit and strung together his first multi-hit game since July 28, and Boone said he’s hopeful that he is breaking out of his slump.

“I don’t think it’s far off,” Boone said. “I think we’re seeing a guy who holds his own, but right now some pitches where he’s got a chance to do damage, it’s been kind of that fly ball or just hasn’t really been clicking yet. Want him to get going. Am I concerned? Not necessarily. Because this is what we saw right before we saw him take off again. I just want to see him impacting pitching.”

Loaiza pleads guilty

Former Yankees pitcher Esteban Loaiza pleaded guilty to federal charges of possession of cocaine with intent to sell in California on Friday, according to The Associated Press. Loaiza admitted to possessing 44 pounds of cocaine, which officials found nearby when they confronted him while he was leaving a house in Mexico. Loaiza admitted that he was moving the drugs from one vehicle to another, according to the AP.

Extra bases

In the last five games, Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar have combined to hit .366 (15-for-41) with seven home runs and 15 RBIs. Stanton has 29 home runs and Andujar has 17.

Lance Lynn and J.A. Happ have performed well since being acquired in trades before the July 31 non-waiver deadline. Lynn has a 0.54 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 16 2/3 innings. Happ has a 3.00 ERA and 0.75 WHIP in 12 innings. Between them, they are 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings. Lynn was in line to pick up the victory Saturday before Zach Britton and Dellin Betances allowed the Rangers to tie the score with two runs in the seventh.

New York Sports