On Opening Day, the Yankees had Greg Bird, Miguel Andújar and Troy Tulowitzki all in the starting lineup. While Andújar had plenty of optimism surrounding him, both Bird and Tulo were wild cards after missing most or all of 2018.
Setting the stage for the Next Man Up, these were the men who went down and stayed that way, seeing their seasons end prematurely.
Miggy Two-bags doubled his way into Yankee fans’ hearts in 2018, finishing a Shohei Ohtani away from New York’s second straight Rookie of the Year. While he wasn’t much for walking, he hit 74 extra-base hits, set the Yankees’ rookie doubles record and absolutely mashed, all while playing minimal defense.
So expectations were high. He was set to man third base from the start of the year, get a fair number of DH days to offset his porous glove and continue hitting the snot out of the ball at age-24.
Andújar got hits in his first three games. On Opening Day, he had a sacrifice fly that would have been a grand slam in warmer weather. Two days later, he struck out swinging as the potential winning run to end the Bombers’ first loss.
Disaster struck in his third game. Orioles catcher Pedro Severino attempted to back pick Andújar at third base. The try went unsuccessful, but the second-year third baseman injured his shoulder diving back into the base.
Andújar would miss the next month with a tear in his labrum. He retured on May 4 for a nine-game stretch where he went 3-for-34 with a walk and nine strikeouts and no extra-base hits. With his power siphoned off by the nagging shoulder injury, Andújar underwent labrum surgery that ended his season.
Bird remains the king of Spring Training. After being left off the 2018 postseason roster, the first baseman had a full offseason to prepare for 2019 and raked in the Grapefruit League. That created some hope that he could finally put injuries aside and return to the Greg Bird that raked in his 2015 debut and 2017 postseason. The “Swatting an Andrew Miller home run into the darkest recesses of the Indians’ psyche” Greg Bird.
His Grapefruit League fooled fans once again. Bird elicited boos on Opening Day after striking out in his first three at-bats, but he turned things around with a solo shot to cap the victory. That went down as his lone homer and RBI for the season.
Bird singled in five of his first six starts and walked twice in the other, but the strikeouts also racked up quickly. After his 10th game, coming on April 13, he had to go on the injured list with a torn plantar fascia, an injury Eli Manning has helped make famous in recent years.
That was it for Bird’s season. He never got close to returning to the field and finished the year with a paltry .171/.293/.257 line after striking out 16 times in 41 plate appearances.
If you were going to predict the two people to get injury from the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup, Bird and Tulowitzki were the obvious choices. Tulo’s season-opening start was his first appearance in a Major League game since July 28, coming before bone spurs eliminated a season and a half for him.
The Yankees signed Tulowitzki to man shortstop with Didi Gregorius out for the first portion of the season. Brian Cashman reportedly considered Freddy Galvis as an alternative, but the Bombers chose to sign Tulowitzki for the league minimum instead.
Tulo homered in Spring Training against his old club and showed enough with four Grapefruit League dingers to get the start on March 28. The team basically stated he wouldn’t start back-to-back games in the early going with DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres set to fill the middle infield when he could not.
The first two games went swimmingly for Tulo. He doubled in the opener and then homered and walked twice in Game No. 2. As with Bird, that’d be his lone homer and RBI for the year and, in Tulo’s case, the final of his career.
Playing just his fifth game in pinstripes, Tulowitzki left after four innings on April 3 against Detroit. He had suffered a calf injury and would have a setback in his rehab, never returning to the club.
At midseason, he announced his retirement. He got the brief chance to play for his favorite childhood team, but that’s little solace as Tulowitzki’s potential Hall of Fame career was torn apart by injuries.
While Tulowitzki is done with the game, Andujar and Bird persist. Either could be finished with the Yankees as teams have inquired about Andujar in trades while Bird represents a prime non-tender candidate.
One of Andújar and Bird should make the Yankees’ 2020 Opening Day roster, the former being the more likely one. Andujar is just 13 months removed from a remarkable rookie season, while Bird’s tantalizing accomplishments are more than two years in the rearview mirror.