Tyler Austin will stay with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. At least for now.
Austin hasn’t reached the 50-at-bat mark that New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi loosely laid out on May 29.
“He didn’t have a spring training. Most of our guys get 50 at-bats each in spring training, so he’s got a ways to go,” Girardi said, via NJ.com.
The 25-year-old is at 44 at-bats in 14 minor league games heading into Monday’s tilt in Rochester, but the Yankees have already made a decision on Austin’s future. He was reinstated off of the 60-day disabled list on Monday and optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Throughout his entire rehab stint with the RailRiders, Austin has stated that he was close to reaching his desired comfortably at the plate, and his offensive numbers correlated to just that. He is batting .300 with a home run, double and 3 RBI in eight games in Triple-A.
“I’m feeling every day I’m getting better and better,” Austin said on Thursday. “I feel good. I’m coming in here every day and getting my work in. Just trying to put in quality at-bats.”
However, while Austin is batting .300, he’s striking out at an above-average rate.
Even though he struck out at a 40-percent clip during his 90 plate appearances with the Yankees last year, Austin displayed great plate discipline in the minors. He struck out in just 23.6 percent of his plate appearances with both Double-A Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Austin has struck out nine times in eight games and 31 plate appearances with the RailRiders in 2017. That’s 29 percent. But he has been working on his approach at the plate as of late.
After striking out three times on Wednesday, Austin put in extra work ahead of Thursday’s game and it paid off, when he was 3 for 4 with a two-run home run. He has also struck out just twice in his last 12 at-bats.
“I was working on that all day — early work — and during (batting practice). That’s my approach,” Austin said of going to opposite field. “I have to stick with that and keep that rolling.”
As he remains with the RailRiders, Austin is expected to continue to bat third or fourth and play both first base and right field, where he has excelled. Austin hasn’t committed an error this season.
When Ji-Man Choi gets healthy, there will be some build-up at first base. Austin will also join the outfield rotation of Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Mason Williams and Mark Payton. Payton was recalled from Trenton on Monday.
The move could point toward a Greg Bird return to the big leagues once he finishes his rehab for an ankle injury, meaning Yankees first baseman Chris Carter’s job could also be safe despite poor performance. Bird has been playing with High-A Tampa, where he owns a .400 batting average with a double and 2 RBI in four games.
However, Girardi told reporters ahead of Sunday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays that they want Bird right at the plate before he returns to the Bronx.
“It just depends on how our people evaluate how he’s doing. How he’s swinging the bat. If they feel he’s ready to go,” Girardi said. “We want to feel that during this time he gets his swing right, too. I think that’s important, too. Sometimes when you have something like that you can get out of doing what you do. You’ve got to get it back on track.”
Reach DJ Eberle at 570-991-6398 or on Twitter @ByDJEberle