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With Greg Bird struggling, Luke Voit is getting an opportunity at first base

Yankees' Luke Voit, center, high-fives teammates in the

Yankees' Luke Voit, center, high-fives teammates in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run in the 10th inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in Baltimore.   Credit: AP/Patrick Semansky

BALTIMORE — Aaron Boone wasn’t in a hurry to get Greg Bird back into the lineup, something the manager strongly hinted at the night before.

Luke Voit started at first base in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles, the expected outcome after he played in place of the struggling Bird on Friday night and hit a pair of two-run homers. Voit hit the ball hard twice in the Yankees' 10-3 victory in Game 1, going 1-for-3 with an RBI single and a walk.  

Bird got the start in Game 2.

“Obviously a huge night [Friday] for him and I feel like his at-bats have started to trend in a better way the few chances he’s gotten of late,” Boone said of Voit before Game 1.  “You saw it really manifest itself last night. I feel like that’s worthy of him getting back in there this afternoon.”

While making it clear that the Yankees haven’t given up on Bird, after Friday night's game, Boone used the phrase “performance matters” several times in answering questions about a possible increase in playing time for the righthanded-hitting Voit.

“Swing the bat like that, you create opportunities for yourself,” Boone said, again speaking of Voit. “Those were quality at-bats [Friday]. Obviously big at-bats in big spots. Yeah. There are some opportunities out there to be had right now. Performance matters."

In two stints with the Yankees since making his debut Aug. 2, Voit was 8-for-26 with seven RBIs in nine games entering Game 2.

Bird, meanwhile, has never gotten it going since his season started May 26. He entered this series with a .202/.292/.397 slash line, 11 homers and 35 RBIs in 72 games. In his last 21 games, he is 9-for-74 with 20 strikeouts, producing a .122/.195/.243 slash line.

Does Boone think Voit’s performance could serve as a motivator for Bird?

“I’m not worried about Birdie in that way,” Boone said. “He’s obviously had a tough time finding his consistency, but I’m really confident he’s working really hard to kind of find that. And we know, again with Bird, when he gets going right, we know we’ve got what we think is an impact performer. He’s going to get back out there and have his chance to kind of prove himself, and hopefully the work he’s doing behind the scenes can get him to the point where he starts to find consistency.”

Voit was acquired along with international pool money from St. Louis on July 28 for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. Obviously, he has no interest in surrendering the chance he’s been given anytime soon.

“No offense to Greg, he’s a great hitter, he’s got a great track record,” said Voit, who was optioned to Triple-A on Aug. 13 and was recalled last Tuesday. “Obviously, you want to play as a player. When I was with the Cardinals, I mostly pinch hit and stuff, so I get that whole role, playing that backup … I’m excited to just get an opportunity again. Like I said earlier, it’s a fresh start for me.” 

New York Sports