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Greg Bird’s return will create tough roster decision for Yankees

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird looks on during

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird looks on during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Feb. 22. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The Yankees likely will activate first baseman Greg Bird on Saturday, manager Aaron Boone said, raising some significant questions about who will be the odd man out on a talented roster that is about to have one player too many.

“We feel he’s as ready as he can be,” Boone said of Bird, who had ankle surgery on March 27 and went 8-for-39 in his minor-league rehab appearances. “I think he’s good to go. The reports have been really good. The at-bats have been good . . . We feel like physically, timing-wise, all those things, he’s in a pretty good place right now to be starting the season.”

That leaves things a little tight for the Yankees, who are carrying 13 pitchers (Tommy Kahnle came off the disabled list Friday). All 13 pitchers, though, might be needed, as the Yankees on Friday embarked on a stretch of 14 games in 13 days. One possibility is sending down first baseman Tyler Austin, who has eight home runs, 23 RBIs and a .535 slugging percentage in 28 games but still has a minor-league option.

“It’s a difficult decision,” Boone said. “Not a simple one. Not an obvious one — something frankly we’re still working on.”

Austin started at first base Friday night. Asked if he is safe, Boone said, “We’ll see.”

Austin has “been an impact performer for us,’’ Boone added. “He’s a reason we’re sitting here where we are with a strong record. He’s one of those guys who’s played a major role in that, and we expect that to continue throughout this year.”

Kahnle returns

Kahnle’s battle with shoulder tendinitis seems to be over, as the Yankees reinstated him from the disabled list Friday. Kahnle, who last pitched April 12, had a 6.14 ERA in six games, but Boone said that when he’s right, he can be a much-needed weapon. Boone said Kahnle is throwing his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and that he would not necessarily shy away from using him in back-to-back games.

“Reports are from his rehab game that he’s throwing the ball well,” Boone said. “When more of our impact guys are healthy down there [in the bullpen], they end up protecting each other . . . The deeper we are down there with really strong options, the better our bullpen is going to be. We feel like Tommy, when he’s right, is one of our impact options.”

The Yankees had optioned lefthanded reliever Ryan Bollinger to Double-A Trenton on Thursday to open a roster spot.

Transactions

The Yankees announced a series of moves on Friday afternoon involving players on their Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team. Catcher Erik Kratz was traded to the Brewers for a player to be named and first baseman/outfielder Adam Lind was released. The Yankees also announced that they acquired catcher Wilkin Castillo from the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League. He will report to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

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