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Yankees’ Greg Bird suffers setback in rehab

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird walks to the

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird walks to the dugout against the Cardinals at Yankee Stadium on April 15, 2017. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Yankees have “pulled the plug” on Greg Bird’s rehab, according to Brian Cashman.

The general manager used those blunt words Thursday afternoon by phone in discussing Bird, who has been out with a bone bruise in his right ankle since May 2 and suffered a recent setback.

Bird, 24, will be sent to team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad on Friday for further evaluation.

“He called [trainer] Steve Donohue this morning and said the leg isn’t feeling right and not functioning right,” Cashman said. “So we’re pulling the plug and he’ll see Dr. Ahmad [on Friday].”

Bird went 0-for-3 in his sixth rehab game Wednesday night with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, which dropped his average to .143 with a .595 OPS.

Cashman said every report Bird had given the club of late had been positive, with Thursday’s news coming as a surprise.

“Everything was going well in terms of comfort and there were no issues he mentioned,” Cashman said. “Today was a new puzzle piece.”

Bird was terrific all of spring training — he slashed .451/.556/1.098 with eight homers — but fouled a ball off his right foot in his last game of the Grapefruit League season on March 30, causing the bone bruise.

Cashman said Bird recently fouled a ball off his knee, which possibly contributed to this setback.

“Is that a factor?” Cashman said. “Who knows? I don’t have any answers [right now].”

The Yankees have been through this kind of thing before with a bone bruise that didn’t heal and ultimately turned out to be something else.

Two seasons ago, then-Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira suffered what at first was diagnosed as a bone bruise in his lower right leg. With little progress shown, a third MRI taken showed a fracture.

“I can’t rule anything out,” Cashman said, when asked if something similar might be going on with Bird.

Cashman would not describe the team as frustrated as one of the expected cornerstones for this season hasn’t been able to get healthy.

“I don’t want to use frustrating,” he said. “These are the facts. Look, everybody, including Greg Bird, want him doing what he was born to do, and that’s playing baseball.”

Joe Girardi did use the word.

“It’s frustrating,” Girardi said. “It’s something most teams end up dealing with, an injury that you don’t want to have and it can be costly for you . . . we thought he’d be a big part of our offense, but he is not and it’s frustrating.”

Chris Carter, though better by degrees since getting more regular playing time in Bird’s absence, still has not taken off. Carter entered Thursday night hitting .207/.298/.371 with six homers and 20 RBI in 49 games.

“We need more production than what we’re getting [at first base],” Cashman said of possibly looking to make changes. “But the personnel is who we have.”

Girardi gave a similar answer, saying veteran Matt Holliday isn’t any more of an option at first — where he hasn’t looked all that comfortable the few times he’s started there — than he was before Thursday’s Bird news.

“He’s our DH,” Girardi said. “I can play him there once in a while. I wouldn’t do it very often.”

He added later: “Chris Carter, I know people are a little bit down on him. He has 20 RBI. He has not played every day. If he had played every day to this point, maybe he would have 40. Is he capable of hitting more? Yeah, and I understand that. But he’s a guy who could run off a hot streak and do well. So this is what we’ve got and this is what we’re going to use.”

 

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