Brandon Drury lost his starting third-base job with the Yankees to injury and watched Miguel Andujar keep the spot with outstanding play.
Now, Drury’s path back to the big leagues hinges on Tyler Austin’s balky back.
When Thursday night’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre vs. Lehigh Valley game started, one of those two were in line to be promoted to help the Yankees battle three Red Sox lefties this weekend in the Bronx.
By the time the night ended, Austin was on the way to see a doctor after leaving the game for a pinch-hitter in the late innings with a back issue.
Despite limited time at first base — five minor league starts there this year — Drury likely will be in pinstripes Friday night.
The right-handed-hitting Drury might not start Friday night because the ice-cold Greg Bird’s best shot to be in the lineup is against Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez. Bird is 3-for-9 with a homer and two RBIs against Rodriguez.
Bird doesn’t have an at-bat against Saturday night’s starter Chris Sale, who has held left-handed hitters to a .190 (12-for-63) average and has 26 strikeouts and walked three. Bird is 0-for-5 with three strikeouts against Sunday night’s starter David Price.
When the Yankees optioned right-hander Luis Cessa to SWB following a 3-0 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday night, they cleared a roster spot.
“We’re going to wind up balancing back out with a position player. Who that happens to be, we’ll talk about it later today and make sure we have someone ready to go for the series Friday,’’ general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday. “So I don’t have a specific answer who, but that’s the purpose behind what we did [Wednesday] night. We’ll add somebody by tomorrow.’’
Drury was the Yankees’ Opening Day starter at third but landed on the disabled list April 7 with migraine headaches and blurry vision. After a minor league rehab stint and the emergence of Andujar at third base, Drury was activated from the DL and optioned to SWB on May 15.
He has recently been getting games at first base, but his 59 minor league games at first pale next to Austin’s 150 games at the position.
“I think he’s done a nice job down there. He’s waiting for his opportunity to return. I’ll talk to Aaron Boone and our entire staff about what is the best option for us as we navigate the next series, especially with Boston,’’ Cashman said. “They’re throwing three left-handers against us, so I think factoring in another right-handed bat would be something that would be an opportunity we have to focus on. So who and what and how, we’ll see.’’
Drury, an International League All-Star, is hitting .306 with six homers and 31 RBIs in 58 minor league games between Double-A Trenton and SWB. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI on Thursday.
Since being optioned to SWB, Austin played in 10 games and hit .286 (10-for-35) with three homers and six RBIs. He started in left field Thursday night against Lehigh Valley and went 1-for-3 with an RBI.
Tuesday in Philadelphia, Aaron Boone didn’t sound as if he thought Drury was ready for big league first base action.
“As far as being a [first base] option, I don’t know about that yet,’’ Boone said of Drury. “We want him to get the reps that will add to his versatility.’’
As for Bird, he is hitting .191 with three homers, six RBIs and a .690 OPS. Since June 19 in nine games (seven starts) Bird is hitting .095 (2-for-21) with a .417 OPS.
According to Cashman, there were no new developments with outfielder Brett Gardner on Thursday, a day after he crashed into the left-field wall to make a catch.
“He was cleared [of a concussion] Wednesday and had no complaints,’’ Cashman said.
Masahiro Tanaka will throw in a simulated game in Tampa on Friday. Depending on how that goes, the Yankees will map out a plan for the right-hander, who has been on the DL since June 9 with two strained hamstrings.
The last two first-round picks by the Yankees connected Thursday in Tampa, where pitcher Clarke Schmidt threw to catcher Anthony Seigler for the Yankees’ GCL West team against the Braves. They were taken in the first rounds in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Schmidt, who missed all of last year because of Tommy John surgery after being drafted from South Carolina, threw two scoreless innings. Seigler, a high school catcher from Cartersville, Ga., went 1-for-2.
Outfielder Ryder Green, a third-round pick this year out of Karns High School in Tennessee, hit a three-run homer for GCL East.
— Additional reporting by Ken Davidoff
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