Greg Bird: Yankees can’t rely on 1B in 2017 despite potential
The Yankees were expecting big things from their 24-year-old first baseman, but his inability to stay on the field and produce when healthy is hindering the Yankees.
Greg Bird got his chance to show that he was an everyday first baseman in 2015 when Mark Teixeira missed the remainder of the season due to injury. Bird would go on to impress the Yankees but miss the entire 2016 season due to an injury of his own. This year, he has missed the majority of the season due to yet another injury and when he’s been healthy the Yankees haven’t been able to rely on him offensively like they thought they could.
Hot Spring Training and Slow Start
This spring, Bird had to prove to the Yankees that he could be the player they saw in 2015 when he hit .261 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in just 178 at bats. Well, Bird did more than just impress, he dominated the Grapefruit League with a .451 average while hitting 8 home runs and driving in 15 RBIs in just 51 at bats. Bird would win the everyday first baseman job and start the season as the number three hitter in the Yankees lineup.
Bird started his first full season in the big leagues hitting .107 with just one home run and 3 RBIs before being placed on the DL once again due to an ankle injury suffered at the end of Spring Training. While on his rehab assignment, Bird did not look like the player the Yankees knew he was and would end up having surgery on his ankle leading him to be out until the end of August.
Bird’s Return from the DL
Bird found himself back with the Yankees but not in a starting role with Chase Headley being productive at first following a trade for third baseman Todd Frazier. In the games that Bird did play in, he found himself hitting a home run in back to back games and having competitive at bats.
Bird now finds himself back on the bench after experiencing back stiffness prior to the Yankees’ series with the Tampa Bay Rays. This and the fact that Bird has been struggling once again is leaving Yankee manager Joe Girardi with a difficult decision. Does he go with the young first baseman or stick with the veteran Chase Headley?
Bird vs Headley
The Yankees cannot afford to lose games at this point in the season and the lack of production that Bird has given them will cost them at some point. With Headley producing since the All-Star Break, Girardi might just be forced to stick with the 33-year-old veteran.
Since moving over to first, Headley numbers have been on the rise. He is hitting .320 since the All-Star break, coming up with clutch hits for the Yankees at times where they needed them the most. One major plus with Headley playing over at first is the fact that Todd Frazier is seeing time at third which has made the Yankees defense much better than it was with Headley at the hot corner.
Let’s not kid ourselves here when we say that Greg Bird can be the first baseman of the future for the Yankees. The issue now is that they don’t know what they’re getting from Bird this season. The Yankees know what they are going to get with Headley and at this time of year, you need to have players in the lineup that are consistent. Bird’s inconsistency at the plate is going to cost the Yankees games down the stretch.
It’s not an ideal situation, but Bird’s leash needs to and will be shorter than it was during April.