Austin making the most of low-key spring

Prospect slowed by wrist injury but gaining comfort, confidence at new position
03/12/2014 11:33 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Outfielder Tyler Austin has been working his way back from a nagging wrist injury this spring.(AP)
TAMPA, Fla. - It has been a tough spring for Tyler Austin, who is a non-roster invitee to this year's training camp but has spent more time camping than training.

Austin missed a good chunk of last season due to a nagging wrist injury - a malady that also forced his early departure from the Arizona Fall League - and so this spring has been more about making sure he gets back to 100 percent above anything else.

That goal, Austin says, is progressing well.

"Everything feels great," he said after a tee and toss session Wednesday morning. "I'm not sure if or when I'll actually get to play in a game, but everything is going well and my wrist feels real good."

That tee and toss session saw Austin take 25 swings within each discipline, and it's a progression from where he was (taking dry swings) just a few days ago. Austin has also been getting some defensive work in this spring, taking his usual outfield reps but also getting some ground balls at third base - a position he played 24 games at in 2011 but hasn't seen since.

Austin also played first base, another position he's seen 24 total minor-league games at, for the limited time he was in Arizona, and when it comes to the corners, he's focused on learning (or re-learning) whatever positional skills he needs to make sure his development ends in an eventual major-league assignment.

"I felt okay at first base (in Arizona), it had been a while but I got the feeling back quickly," he said. "Third base…I hadn't been there since 2011 I think, but I want to show the team I'm ready and willing to do whatever it takes to be productive and help out wherever I can."

And, while he hasn't had a chance to step on a game field with them yet, Austin is loving just being in Yankees camp and learning from all the veterans. His locker is directly across from Derek Jeter, who he idolized as a kid, and the 22-year-old country boy said he'll remember everything about it - even the little, seemingly trivial things - both now and forever.

"I mean, I'm right here," he said, gesturing to his right to where Jeter's locker sits, "right next to The Captain. He was my favorite player growing up, so that's a childhood dream and a professional highlight all come true in one, and I get to see how he and all of these guys go about their business, which helps me out a lot."

Austin has a pedigree of minor-league success, having seen the postseason in all three of his full years in the organization and already accumulating three rings, one each from splitting the 2011 season with the Gulf Coast League and Staten Island Yankees and the third last fall in Trenton.

He knows 2014 isn't off to an ideal start, and while it's likely his regular-season will once again start in Trenton, Austin hopes that pedigree continues come the fall - preferably in the holiest of baseball cathedrals.

"Yeah, I've gotta keep the streak alive," he joked, before adding, "hopefully I can do it with all these guys up in New York and we can have another chat about it in the clubhouse there!"

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