Greg Bird

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Gregory Paul Bird
(Bird Dog)

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Biographical Information[edit]

First baseman Greg Bird began his professional career in 2011. He has struggled mightily with injuries at the big league level.

Greg was taken by the New York Yankees in the 5th round of the 2011 amateur draft after hitting .553 with 12 homers and 38 RBI during his senior year of high school. He began his professional career with a four-game stint with the GCL Yankees, hitting .083. Bird boosted his performance to the tune of a .337/.450/.494 line with 17 walks in 28 games between the GCL Yankees and Staten Island Yankees in 2012. With the Charleston RiverDogs in 2013, he hit .288/.428/.511 with 20 home runs, 84 RBI, 84 runs scored, 36 doubles and 107 walks in 130 games. His 107 walks were the most among all minor leaguers and he also paced the South Atlantic League in on-base percentage. He was an MiLB.com Organization All-Star, a SAL postseason All-Star and a Topps Class A All-Star. Between the Tampa Yankees and Trenton Thunder in 2014, he hit .271/.376/.472 with 14 home runs, 43 RBI, 30 doubles and 63 walks in 102 games. He played for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League following the season and hit .313/.398/.556 in 26 games and was named the circuit's MVP, the AFL Rising Stars MVP and a member of the AFL All-Prospect team.

Greg was invited to spring training with the Yankees in 2015 and hit .357/.438/.786 through his first 14 at-bats. He was assigned to Trenton to start the year and hit .258 in 59 games, but with 16 doubles and 9 homers. He was promoted to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in early July and played 34 games there, hitting .301, before being called up to the Big Apple. He made his debut on August 13th, starting at first base in place of Mark Teixeira and hitting seventh. Facing the Cleveland Indians, he went 0 for 5 with a pair of strikeouts, but the Yankees snapped a five-game losing streak with an 8-6 win. It was not necessarily an easy situation for Bird, with the Yankees in the middle of a tough race for first place in the AL East with the Toronto Blue Jays but he managed to prove his mettle quickly. He got his first big league hit against the Jays on August 15th, then had an excellent three-game series against the Minnesota Twins, contributing to a Yankees sweep by going 5 for 9. In the final game of the set on August 19th, he hit his first two major league homers in a 4-3 win. Both long balls came off Ervin Santana and he drove in all four Yankees runs, as Carlos Beltran was on base ahead of him both times. Teammates were starting to whisper "Wally Pipp" at Teixeira, out with a bruise caused by fouling a ball off his leg, a reminder of the man who had once given his starting spot to Lou Gehrig and never managed to get it back. Teixeira's bruise turned out to be a fracture, giving Bird a chance to start at first base the rest of the season. His 10th home run on September 22nd was an important one, as the three-run shot off Mark Lowe of the Blue Jays in the 10th inning was key to a 6-4 Yankees win that brought them back to 2 1/2 games off first place. He finished the season with a .261 average in 46 games, with 9 doubles, 11 homers and 31 RBI. He started the Wild Card Game at first base against the Houston Astros and got one of his team's three hits off Dallas Keuchel, a 2nd-inning single, in a losing effort.

Bird suffered a major setback before the 2016 season, as he aggravated a pre-existing shoulder injury in offseason drills. He underwent surgery on February 2nd and missed the entire season. If there were any concerns the injury would slow him down in 2017, he dispelled them with a tremendous spring training during which he hit .450 with a bunch of homers. With Teixeira having retired, Bird was the Opening Day first baseman but started the year slowly as he was bothered by a bruised right foot and flu-like symptoms. He broke out of an 0-for-20 slump with his first homer of the year, a two-run shot off Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals, in the 2nd inning of a 9-3 win on April 16th. He finished that game 3-for-3 with a walk, also slugging a double. He continued to struggle at the plate for the rest of the month and, on May 2nd, the Yankees placed him on the disabled list with a bruised right ankle. He was hitting .100 with the one homer in 60 at-bats. He suffered a setback working himself back into playing shape at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in early June, necessitating more time off; he was batting only .143 in the minors at the time. On July 17th, the Yankees announced that he would undergo surgery on his ankle to remove excessive bone growth. With a recovery time set at six weeks, there was a small chance that he could come back in September, although it was unlikely the Yankees would want to rush him back to the field. He made it back on August 26th, with the Yankees in a tough race for a postseason slot. In his first game back, he reached base three times with a hit and a pair of walks in a 6-3 win over the Seattle Mariners. Greg finished the year batting .190 in 48 games, with 9 homers and 28 RBI, playing his best ball the last couple of weeks of the season. He was healthy during the postseason and started all 13 of the Yankees' games at first base, hitting well. He went 1 for 3 in the [2017 ALWC|Wild Card Game]], 4 for 18 (.222) with 2 homers in the Yankees' win over the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series and 5 for 20 (.250) with another homer in their loss to the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

Following his solid last few weeks in 2017, Bird was slated to start at first base in 2018, but he was once again victim of the injury bug. Just before the regular season was to start, on March 29th he was placed on the disabled list with a bone spur in his ankle requiring surgery. He was expected to miss six to eight weeks while Tyler Austin took over for him. He returned on May 26th, following a rehab assignment, and hit his first long ball of the season in his third game back on May 28th, a solo shot off Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros. He spent the remainder of the season on the roster, but his production was disappointing, as he hit .199 with 11 homers and 38 RBI in 82 games. The Yankees acquired career minor leaguer Luke Voit from the St. Louis Cardinals at the trading deadline, and while it was initially as an insurance policy, the newcomer hit so well when given a chance to play that he displaced Bird, who finished the year riding pine and did not play at all in the postseason. The two were competing for the first base job in spring training in 2019, with little chance the team would have the roster flexibility to keep both players. It seemed that, once again, an injury would intervene, as Bird was hit by a pitch on the elbow on March 20th and sat out a few days. Both players had been having a very good spring until then, but the injury turned out to be less serious than feared, and with Aaron Hicks skated to start the year on the DL, the two were now slated to start the year on the roster, with one playing first base and the other DH'ing. In a now familiar pattern, Bird started the year slowly, with only 1 homer and a .171 average in his first 10 games, then went on the injured list on April 16th with a foot injury. He never returned as Voit and Mike Ford took over his playing time. After the season, on November 20th, he was designated for assignment, as his unceasing injuries had exhausted the team's patience. On November 27th, he rejected an outright assignment to AAA, making him a free agent.

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Adler: "After flashing potential, Bird poised to rake: Yankees first baseman's output down 2017 stretch hints at '18 power", mlb.com, February 6, 2018. [1]
  • Pete Caldera: "Greg Bird is a free agent: What comes next after he rejected New York Yankees assignment", USA Today, November 27, 2019. [2]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Bird to miss entire season due to shoulder injury: First baseman of Yanks' future to have surgery to repair torn labrum", mlb.com, February 1, 2016. [3]
  • Bryan Hoch: "Bird eager to put injury behind him in 2017: After playing in Arizona Fall League, 24-year-old will compete for 1B job", mlb.com, December 22, 2016. [4]

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