When the New York Yankees open their spring training camp in Ft. Lauderdale, it is likely that no one will receive more attention than Greg Bird from Joe Girardi and the entire coaching staff. Having missed the entire 2016 season due to right labrum surgery, the long tedium of rehab is behind him, as is his recent play in the Arizona Fall League. The Yankees are counting on him and Bird knows it, whether he’s ready or not.
Baseball Reference projects that based on the numbers he put in 46 games with the Yankees in 2015, Greg Bird would hit 39 home runs and drive in 109 runs over a full 162 game season. While those numbers may be lofty, both the Yankees and Bird would settle for a 25-90 season. Because if he can do that, Bird will have fulfilled the promise that he is the player who is destined to replace Mark Teixeria (minus the defense) without losing a beat.
The Yankees sent Bird to the AFL to get him back in the full swing of baseball activity. Results were mixed as he emerged healthy, but a .215 BA raised some eyebrows against what is generally Triple-A pitching. Nevertheless, he was there and he saw live pitching for the first time in almost a year.
For Greg Bird – Everything Is About To Become Real
Bird is expected to compete with Tyler Austin, who saw mostly outfield duty last season. Austin however has nowhere near the power of Bird, so essentially the Yankees are saying to Bird that it’s his job to lose. To further hedge their bets, they also signed Matt Holiday, who although he’s seen primarily as a DH can fill in at first base when needed.
Recently, Bird talked about his mindset with MLB.com telling them:
"“I’m ready to go. I spent a whole year thinking about it, getting ready for it and rehabbing for it,” Bird said. “I’m going to continue to work in the offseason for it. Obviously going into last year before surgery, I was working to make the team, and I feel the same now. I’ve got to go out and prove that I can play, but in my mind, I don’t have any doubts. I’m just excited to go out there and be part of Spring Training this time.”"
Greg Bird knows that the Yankees “like him” and that has to be a confidence booster. But by now he also knows that they will only continue to like him if he can be productive and stay on the field when the season begins. Nothing like a little pressure on a 24 year old kid, huh?