TAMPA, FL - MARCH 4: Tyler Austin #79 of the New York Yankees strikes out swinging in front of catcher Tommy Joseph #73 of the Philadelphia Phillies to end the second inning of a spring training game on March 4, 2015 at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Tyler Austin, Tommy Joseph
Erik Boland of Newsday Sports reported that Yankee utility man Tyler Austin has been at the Major League complex in Tampa, Fla., for the past week getting in early work at multiple positions. Austin is getting reps at first base, third base and in the outfield.
Tyler Austin has been at ML complex in Tampa for the last wk.Worked at 1B,3B & OF today. An observer said he’s been “bombing” the ball in BP
The 25-year-old mostly appeared at first base when he got called up to the majors last August. He played in 32 games with 27 coming at first base. He appeared in five games in the outfield, playing three in right and two in left.
With the majority of the roster filled out, Austin will compete for the starting first base role with Greg Bird. Bird is returning from a torn labor that held him out of the 2016 season, but seems like the favorite as long as he stays healthy.
Austin taking reps at third base as well as first base and the outfield is a big deal as his ability to play multiple positions gives the Yankees some flexibility. He hit .241 with five home runs in 90 plate appearances for the Yankees last season. He’s a solid right handed hitter with great opposite field power.
With Austin getting a head start on the season and reportedly “bombing” the ball in batting practice — according to an observer who spoke with Boland — the first-base competition between him and Bird could make Joe Girardi‘s decision difficult this spring.