Tyler Austin pointed his finger in the mirror.
Sporadic playing time wasn’t the problem Wednesday night.
“I just got to prepare better, and that’s all it is. That’s all it boils down to,” Austin said after striking out four times and leaving four men on base in the Yankees’ 5-3 win over the Astros at the Stadium. “Today I was terrible. I got to prepare better.”
Austin was making his first start in five games, and sure looked rusty, failing to put the ball in play. Against left-hander Dallas Keuchel, manager Aaron Boone opted to rest the lefty-hitting Greg Bird in favor of Austin, who owns a .931 OPS against southpaws this year. It was just Austin’s third start in the past eight games.
“It’s not easy, but I got to be a veteran,” Austin said. “I got to prepare myself better.”
As his playing time has diminished, Austin’s struggles have increased. He is in the midst of an 0-for-18 drought and has struck out 11 times in that span. But Boone said he still feels Austin can be productive in limited at-bats.
“Outside of Keuchel, we’re running up [against] a pretty good stretch of righties,” the manager said. “But I still think you can look to get guys a day here and there that you want to get and kind of maneuver guys and use that DH slot and do the best we can to keep guys fresh.”
Austin said he tries not to think about his precarious spot on the roster. When Bird was activated on Saturday, utility man Ronald Torreyes was demoted in a surprise decision. Many expected it to be the 26-year-old Austin.
“That’s a difficult decision that they had to make,” Austin said. “I hate to see it. But I try not to think about it.”
Overall, he has produced this year, notching a .222/.280/.500 slash line with a .780 OPS. He has eight home runs and 23 RBIs in 108 at-bats. But those numbers were as a semi-regular. That’s not his role anymore.
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