Greg Bird will be the starting 1st baseman for the New York Yankees this year. The 24 year-old member of the Yankees youth movement launched two more home runs and collected five RBIs as the Yankees beat the Phillies 7-3 in Grapefruit League play right after Yankees Manager Joe Girardi made it official that Bird got the job.
“Birdie’s been special this spring,” said Chase Headley, who also homered. “He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He’s a force right now. He’s doing it against good pitchers. It’s not like he’s doing it against No. 97.”
During the spring, Bird, who missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury, has a .439 batting average, six homers and 13 extra-base hits. He also had a two-homer game on February 28 against the Red Sox in Fort Myers.
“It’s fun to be back playing,” Bird said. “I know I keep saying that, but I feel good playing and then when I go home and the next day. I didn’t have that for a long time, so I’m just enjoying it.”
In 2015, Bird posted 11 homers and an .871 OPS in 157 at-bats. But Headley thinks he’s an even better player now, an assessment Bird agrees with.
“I think so. I feel better. I do. I’ll be honest,” Bird said. “I think physically, but I think mentally too. I think rehab you can kind of go two ways with it. It was tough and then there were days obviously where I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be playing. But if you make something positive out of it, it can help you. I didn’t get the at-bats last year or the reps, but I feel like I’m ready because of it.”
Bird’s ascension as a hitter comes from experience and health.
“I feel like toward the end of 2014 I was kind of learning how to use my lower half better and really learning how to drive the ball to right-center,” he said. “Fast forward a little bit. I felt good, but it kind of tapered off and I was always trying to find it again. I couldn’t feel it, so I had to retool my game a little bit and I think in-part it was because of the shoulder, dealing with that. So now that I’ve fixed that and done the rehab and feel better because of it, I think it helps.”
Girardi has high praise for Bird. “He’s been really good,” Girardi said. “Maybe better than what I expected knowing that he sat out a year and you worry about guy’s timing. It hasn’t seemed to affect him.”
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