ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Bobby Mitchell wishes Tyler Austin nothing but success moving forward. After Thursday.
Austin headlined a deal for Minnesota Twins pitcher Lance Lynn Monday night.
Now the former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders first baseman has switched dugouts and will play for the Rochester Red Wings the remainder of the five-game series between the two teams.
He was in the Red Wings’ starting lineup Tuesday night, batting third and playing first base, and homered in his second at-bat. Austin finished 1-for-4 as Rocheser won 8-3.
“It’s always tough to do that right in the middle of the game, and I’ve had to do it a few times,” Mitchell said of having to tell Austin he was traded during Monday’s doubleheader in Rochester. “I was hoping he was going to the big leagues or something so I could tell him that, but this is the second-best thing, I think, for him. I think he thinks that. He’s happy. He had a smile on his face once he heard the news.
“We wish him the best of luck after this season and I’m sure he’ll be a great addition to their organization and the big league club.”
As much as Austin enjoyed his time in the New York Yankees organization, the change in scenery is likely best for the 26-year-old first baseman.
Austin gets a fresh start and only has Joe Mauer and Logan Morrison ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. Both Mauer and Morrison are aging veterans, who are set to be free agents in the offseason. Morrison does have a team option for 2019.
With the Yankees, Austin was stuck behind Greg Bird, who is 25 and under contract until 2022, while a Yankee. Neil Walker’s ability to play first base also gave New York the flexibility to flash Austin on the trade market.
“Obviously I’m excited for the opportunity,” Austin said. “I hate to leave that organization where I’ve developed and I owe everything to. It hurt, but I’m excited for the opportunity.”
“It’s all new, so we’ll see what happens. I’m going to take it a day at a time and we’ll see what happens.”
Austin has had a lot of memorable moments in the Yankees organization.
From his debut in pinstripes when he went back-to-back with Aaron Judge to helping the RailRiders play in their second straight Governor’s Cup Finals, but above all else, the one memory that stands alone is when New York drafted the Heritage High School alum in the 13th round of the 2010 draft.
“I think that just being drafted by the Yankees. I think that’s the biggest thing,” Austin said. “Them giving me a chance to be able to develop and be a big league baseball player. I think that’s the most memorable thing.”
Austin will be hard to replace for the RailRiders.
Not only was he one of the team’s best bats, often batting in the No. 3 hole this season, but he was one of the team’s leader. Even when Austin was sent down to Triple-A earlier this season, Mitchell said the first baseman would play a large role in the clubhouse because he’s a natural leader.
Now someone else will have to fill the void.
“He’s a big-time leader. And he has been ever since I met him in 2016. Players love him. He’s just a fun-loving guy. But when the game comes and you get between the lines, he’s a serious as they come and I think it rubs off on other players. I think that his leadership, we will miss a lot in this locker room.
“It’s kind of mixed emotions because you’re happy to see that he has another chance to go wherever he wants to go, but also that he’s leaving us. I think it’s the same for him, you know? Or anybody that gets traded. We spend a lot of time together and we become family and the next thing you know, he’s sent off. So it’s a little tough.”
On the field, Mike Ford and the newly acquired Luke Voit will see most of the time at first base.
Voit comes to the RailRiders in a trade that sent relievers Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve to the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday night. In 67 games with Triple-A Memphis, Voit is batting .299 with 16 doubles, nine home runs and 36 RBI.
Ford and Voit will rotate between first base and designated hitter moving forward, according to Mitchell.
“It’s still baseball,” Voit said. “Kind of do my own thing. Don’t try to come in here and try to hit five home runs my first game. Just do what I do best — stick within myself. Obviously you want to get back up to the big leagues and stuff, so I’m going to try to do what I can down here to show the reason they brought me here was to help the big league team. Just try to do some damage down here.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle