This was supposed to be another lost season for New York Yankees first baseman Greg Bird. That idea made his game-deciding blast in Game 3 of the ALDS that much sweeter.
Greg Bird and the Yankees have had a strained relationship since 2015. The organization has always salivated at the 24-year-old’s raw talent and professionalism.
When Bird debuted in ’15, his 11 homers and 31 RBI were supposed to be an appetizer of what was to come. Unfortunately, for both sides, shoulder surgery to repair a right torn labrum put those visions on hold.
The calendar finally flipped to ’17, and Bird was ecstatic to be back for spring training. He tore through March with a Grapefruit League-leading seven home runs before a foul ball to the ankle crippled his swing. He attempted to play through the pain, but after 19 regular season games, and sitting at a .100 batting average with one homer, the nagging ankle forced him to the disabled list.
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Unsuccessful rehab efforts eventually lead to surgery to deal with a condition known as os trigonum, or in layman’s terms, excess bone growth. The recovery time was expected to derail the first baseman’s remaining season. As Bird told NJ.com:
"“In nearly four months since first injuring my ankle, it had been increasingly frustrating to have only questions and no answers,” Bird said after surgery. “All this time, I have wanted nothing more than to be out there playing the game I love as a member of the New York Yankees.”"
It seemed, at times, Bird was the only one confident he would actually return.
"“My season is not over,” declared Bird. “I plan to do everything in my power to return and help our team win in 2017.”"
Remarkably, he has done just that. Since coming off the DL on Aug. 26, Bird has crushed eight homers and drove in 25 runs. More importantly, he has become a postseason hero. He has gone yard in back-to-back ALDS games against the Cleveland Indians; Sunday’s came off fierce left-hander and former Yankees closer Andrew Miller.
Bird’s long-ball was the emphatic “1” in the Yanks’ 1-0 Game 3 victory. Including the wild-card game, Bird is now 5-for-16 (.313) with two homers and four RBI.
That last trip around the bases must have been exhilarating for Greg Bird, knowing that by the time he touched home plate, he had vanquished any lingering doubt of who the Yanks’ starting first baseman will be in ’18.