Yankees’ Greg Bird talks 2017 competition with Tyler Austin
TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees first baseman Greg Bird said he understands he doesn’t have the starting job locked up going into next season and welcomes the competition from Tyler Austin.
“That’s how baseball works,” Bird said at the Yankees’ training facility on Monday morning. “We’re all fighting for a job. The best players play. It will make the both of us better, I think.”
Yankees general managerBrian Cashman said recently that he expects Austin and Bird to fight for the spot in spring training.
“May the best man win,” Cashman said.
When Mark Teixeira retires at the end of the season, it will bring an end to eight years of stability the Yankees had at the position.
But the team has high hopes for Bird, 23, and Austin, 25.
Bird showed promise in 2015. The 6-foot-4 lefty hitter zipped through Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before he subbed in for Teixeira, who suffered a broken shin, and hit 11 homers with a .261 batting average and .871 OPS in 46 games.
Bird seemed poised to play a role with the big-league club again in 2016 until he needed season-ending surgery to repair a torn right shoulder labrum. He’ll continue his recovery at the Arizona Fall League next month. Bird was the MVP there in 2014.
Austin, meanwhile, forced the Yankees to promote him to the majors for the firs time this year. An ex-top prospect who suffered setbacks due to injuries and poor performance, Austin ripped through Double-A and Triple-A and has split time with Teixeira. In 23 games, Austin has hit .203 with three homers.
“We want a team full of good players,” Bird said. “That’s how we’re going to win games. And that’s us competing or other people competing with each other makes us all better, than that’s what we want.”
Here are a few other takeaways from Bird:
GETTING THERE: Bird hit outside on Monday. He hopes to face live batting practice next week from pitchers at the Yankees’ instructional league here. Then he said he expects to get into a few instructional league games before heading to the AFL.
TOUGH RECOVERY: Bird said that he never really accepted that his season was over after the surgery but just lived with it. The road back was long, he said. “Early on, it didn’t feel like you were working toward anything. So then once I got on the field I guess that was closer. But then it sets in. ‘I only threw today. I’ve still got a ways to go.'”
HOW’S THE SHOULDER?: Here’s what Bird said when asked if his shoulder feels as strong as it should.
“It still is sore. Using it again is sore. As far as hurt goes, it doesn’t hurt. As far as the ability of the shoulder, it’s night and day. It’s unbelievable to me how different it feels in a good way. It’s like hitting with a jello shoulder vs. one that’s stuck. I don’t know if that makes sense. It just feels like it’s there now as before it didn’t feel like it was there. It felt loose and kind of all over the place. The control was stuff. Now it feels like it’s in there again and it’s strong. It’s stronger than what it was and it’s structurally sounds now. It’s about working out the bumps and bruises. There’s scar tissue to break up. And the endurance part is big, getting the baseball specific strength back in the shoulder. That’s the big thing really. You’re strong, structurally everything is good. Now it’s about building up that endurance, that everyday endurance type thing.”