Although they had to make room for Bird's arrival onto the 25-man roster, the Yankees decided to also keep fellow first baseman Tyler Austin in the mix, electing instead to demote infielder Ronald Torreyes to the minor leagues.
The combination of a stretch of 14 games in 13 days (the Yankees have a doubleheader at Detroit on June 4), the desire to keep an extra pitcher on the roster and the likelihood that Austin plays more going forward than Torreyes would have, contributed to the Yankees' decision.
New York will move forward with 13 pitchers and three bench players. At earlier points this season it had 12 pitchers and four players on the bench.
"The wrestling match came down to, really, didn't think the pitching situation was something that we could or should mess with," general manager Brian Cashman said. "And it came down to the positive contributions of Toe [Torreyes] -- which I don't want to diminish -- off the bench, and obviously in that clubhouse, versus what Tyler Austin's earned on an everyday basis."
Austin, who has eight home runs and 23 RBIs in 29 games this season, had been considered a likely candidate to be sent to the minors upon Bird's return from the DL. Hurt late in spring training, Bird hadn't played this season after undergoing surgery on his right ankle in late March.
"I feel like I'm going to hit the ground running. We've got a great team, and I'm excited to be back," Bird said. "I'm ready to go every day."
Bird had been rehabbing the past couple weeks at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He said it was in the past week when he finally started experiencing regular comfort with his ankle.
"The last week has been really smooth for me," Bird said. "Injuries take away from you as a player. It's hard to not let them take away from you as a person. That's the hardest thing for me. It sucks. It just does. And being able to get through that as a person is a harder thing than as a player."
Bird's return comes after his still-young career has stalled a few times by foot and shoulder injuries. The Yankees still believe that if he remains healthy, he can be a valued piece of their already strong offense.
Before his demotion, Torreyes, who was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was batting .339 and had played shortstop, second base and third base in 22 games this season.
On Saturday, Boone referred to Torreyes' demotion as a "difficult decision."
"I think the thinking was -- and hopefully it's something that's temporary. I mean, for what Toe means to our team, to our clubhouse, to the guys in that room, to the way he performs, certainly not deserved," Boone said. "A very difficult decision was made, and it made for a difficult night."
Boone said the news of Torreyes' demotion was "felt" in the Yankees' clubhouse Friday night, when he was told he was going down. The manager expects the utility man to be back up at some point this season.
"It was not an easy decision, but we're paid to make tough ones," Cashman added. "We're thankful for what Toe has done thus far, and look forward to what he'll do for us in the future."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.