The idea that either Greg Bird or Luke Voit will start the season in the minors seems crazy to some Yankees fans. It’s clear that Aaron Boone doesn’t care.
Aaron Boone raised some eyebrows earlier this spring when he called D.J. LeMahieu his backup first baseman. That made it clear that either Greg Bird or Luke Voit wasn’t going to make the Opening Day roster. Nothing that’s developed this spring has changed Boone’s mind.
Instead, the Yankees manager is still speaking strongly on the subject. Boone was adamant in his comments with the media on Thursday that the team would not carry two first baseman to New York when Spring Training ends. He specifically ruled out the idea that platooning Bird and Voit could be a solution to the battle between the two guys.
That makes the battle for the starting job at first base the most interesting story line going for the Yankees. There’s some healthy intrigue over who will fill in for CC Sabathia and Luis Severino in the rotation to start the year, but those are short-term calls for Boone. The choice of whether to go with Boone or Voit could have long-range ramifications for the franchise.
Both players are enjoying productive springs down on Florida. Voit was hitting .308 with two home runs and five RBIs heading into Thursday’s game against the Phillies while Bird was swinging a hot stick to the tune of .400 and a home run of his own. Boone may be hoping that one players distinguishes himself over the other in the next three weeks, but he may be disappointed on that front.
That means Boone could potentially face a nearly impossible choice. No one could blame him for going with Voit based on how well he played down the stretch for the Yankees last season. He gave the New York offense a significant shot in the arm while Aaron Judge was on the disabled list. All he’s done this spring is continue to hit the ball at the same torrid pace.
On the other hand, the Yankees lineup could really use another left-handed bat. The organization has long-held the belief that Bird’s lefty swing is tailor-made for Yankee Stadium’s short porch. If he continues to pound the ball in Spring Training there will be strong voices inside the front office that will want to see him win the job.
Defense is another thing that can work in Bird’s favor. Voit’s body type doesn’t lend him to great range at first base. Bird isn’t a gold glove defender, but he’s an above average first baseman in that regard. He won’t win the job with his glove alone, but it could prove to be a valuable tiebreaker in his favor.
No matter what, Yankees fans should expect this battle to go right down to the wire. Both Voit and Bird have the talent to be above average starters at the major league level, but only one guy is going to get that chance when the regular season begins.