New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird has shown little to no rust after missing the entire 2016 season. The 24-year-old appears ready to help on and off the field.
Yankees GM, Brian Cashman, wanted this to happen, and probably, so did a lot of Yankees fans. It seemed as if Greg Bird needed to become the heir to Mark Teixeira. Per NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty, the Yankees GM made it known back in November that he wanted Greg Bird to win the starting job at first base:
"“Our hope is that Greg Bird — it’s going to be his to take and to control,” Cashman said. “Tyler Austin’s going to have a lot to say about that, I’m sure. But in terms of forecasting and planning, which in baseball, you have to use those terms loosely because things never go as planned. But the hope is that Greg Bird mans that position and becomes the player and hits the ceilings we expected before his shoulder injury.”"
Well, after seeing action in seven spring training games thus far, Cashman must be pretty happy, as Bird has looked fantastic. The lefty has produced three home runs, five RBI’s, seven hits and three walks in 21 plate appearances.
The organization really couldn’t have asked for anything better from Bird. While some will say spring training doesn’t count, you can discredit the production. Bird has always been known as a power hitter, as evidenced by his 11 home runs in 46 games back in 2015. Three homers in 19 plate appearances is a great indicator that his power is just as potent as it was before going under the knife for a torn labrum surgery.
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Another plus for Bird? He’s only struck out three times this spring. Again, a small sample size, but an encouraging one nonetheless.
If Bird can maintain a .260 average while collecting 20+ home runs, 2017 would be a fantastic year for the former Arizona Fall League MVP.
What’s even better for the Yankees is the fact that Bird is still as humble as he was in 2015. According to NJ.com‘s Randy Miller, Bird already has the mindset of a veteran:
"“If there was anything that I learned in my first six years (as a pro), it was that you can’t control anyone else and that you’ve just got to work hard and become the best player you can each day and kind of let the rest take care of itself because you just don’t know what can happen. So that’s kind of my go-to and what I’m sticking with.”"
In many ways, Bird’s resurgence is the best story of the Yankees’ spring. As names like Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, and Gary Sanchez have impressed, Bird serves as a mentor even though he isn’t much older.
For the Yankees youth movement, Bird must be considered one of the leaders. The young man is known to be one of the hardest workers in the system, along with one of the best to talk to. In many ways, he resembles a young Matt Holliday. Both hits for power and both have an excellent clubhouse presence.
The Yankees appear to be on the verge of making a choice between Chris Carter and Rob Refsnyder with Carter winning the battle. Wrong move.
At the time, the signing of Chris Carter seemed reasonable, as the first base situation was mostly undecided. Then, Tyler Austin went down with an injury. For the Yankees, they needed Bird to take the leap forward. Now, Bird looks ready for takeoff.