Badly needed reinforcements are headed to the Bronx, as key contributors RHP Tommy Kahnle and 1B Greg Bird are set to be activated from the disabled list during the upcoming series against the Los Angeles Angels. Manager Aaron Boone provided the information in a radio interview with Mike Francesa.
The bullpen proved overworked in an ugly loss Wednesday in Texas, where the Yankees’ offense scored 10 runs but were bested by 12 from the Rangers. Tommy Kahnle will provide extra length as he serves as another arm Boone can trust in a high-leverage situation. Kahnle last pitched April 12 in Boston, before a concerning velocity drop led the Yankees to discover his right shoulder tendinitis. That likely explains his unsightly 6.14 ERA (5.69 FIP) as well as astronomical 9.8 walks-per-nine rate. So far on his rehab assignment, Kahnle has allowed two earned runs in five innings of work.
Greg Bird returns to a first base position that has actually been handled well in his absence. The 25-year-old did not make the trip north for the Yankees’ opening series in Toronto due to another surgery on a small bone spur in his right ankle. Doctors removed a coin-sized calcium deposit from the joint. Yankees first basemen have combined to hit .238/.296/.431 with nine homers and 33 RBIs to this point in the season, so they have the luxury to ease Bird back into things. I would expect the Yankees to demote an extra reliever (likely A.J. Cole) so that they can keep both Tyler Austin and Neil Walker on the active roster. On his rehab assignment, Bird has slashed .205/.367/.436 with three home runs. He likely will play one more game with the RailRiders Friday in Scranton.
Gary Sánchez, who left Tuesday night’s game with calf cramps and did not start in Wednesday’s game, will likely start behind the plate as normal to catch Luis Severino in Friday’s series opener. He’ll get at least the half-day-off Saturday as Sonny Gray will start.
Prior to Boone’s interview with Francesa, there was nervousness regarding Sánchez’s health as the team signed catcher Wilkin Castillo out of the independent Atlantic League and assigned him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. No word at this point if either of their catchers, Kyle Higashioka or Erik Kratz, are going through any injury issues. Castillo is actually quite versatile as well, logging innings at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field. And, yes, he logged 6⅔ innings on the mound for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians in the Pittsburgh Pirates system in 2015.
Earlier today, the Yankees activated outfielder Billy McKinney (left shoulder sprain) from the 10-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.