BALTIMORE — Greg Bird played three simulated innings Wednesday and will play six innings Thursday for Class A Tampa in his first minor-league rehab game.
Bird has been on the DL since May 2 with a bone bruise in his ankle. He tried to play through the injury, which he initially suffered during the final week of spring training and later re-aggravated during the regular season. But he was just 6-for-60 at the plate at the time he was put on the shelf.
Still, the Yankees could use a healthy Bird at first base, where Chris Carter has struggled. Rob Refsynder started at first for the second straight game on Wednesday.
Also on the injury front, Aroldis Chapman (rotator cuff inflammation) played catch on Wednesday and Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) was slated to take batting practice. Girardi said Ellsbury was expected to see the doctor and potentially be cleared if all of his pre-game activity went well.
Didi Gregorius (sore hand) was not in the lineup on Wednesday, with Ronald Torreyes getting the start at shortstop. Gregorius was hit by a pitch on Tuesday, but X-rays were negative. Girardi said he could be available if necessary.
The surprising Yankees will enter June in first place in the AL East division standings.
“It’s better than the alternative,” Joe Girardi said. “Players have had to make adjustments and we’ve had to withstand some injuries, so I’m proud of where we’re at right now.”
The starting pitching has managed to hold up decently after a rough start.
“I think they’ve taken some strides,” Girardi said. “The first turn was rough, and I think they’ve took it on themselves that they need to be better than this.”
Austin Romine was behind the plate for the second straight start catching Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka has been much more effective in a battery with Romine this season (2.21 ERA in six games) as opposed to Gary Sanchez (12.27 in four games). But Joe Girardi was irked by the comparison, again citing that Tanaka had a ton of success with Sanchez last season (1.94 in seven games).
“We can make a huge deal out of this,” Girardi said. “It’s a short sample. I’m going to say it was more that he had his two best pitches. That’s a big deal. You have to be a genius to go out there without a slider and splitter and get through a lineup. It would be pretty hard. It’s something I’m always open to, if you’re giving a guy a day off every five days there’s some consistency. I don’t have a problem with that, but I’m not making a big deal of what’s happened so far. I’m not saying I didn’t set it up this way. But I’m not saying Sanchez is the reason Tanaka’s not throwing well. I think that’s unfair.”