ANAHEIM — Greg Bird, the best player in baseball during the spring, is going to have to earn his way back onto the first-place Yankees’ roster. Joe Girardi’s honest assessment of the struggling Bird at this point in his minor-league rehab stint from an ankle injury revealed as much on Wednesday.
“The results, they haven’t been great is the bottom line, so we’re trying to get him going is what we’re trying to do,” Girardi said. “I’m not there, so I’m not necessarily watching his whole at-bats and how he’s reacting to pitches, but when you look at the numbers, they’re not what you expect from Greg Bird.”
On Wednesday, Bird went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk in Triple-A Scranton’s 6-5 victory over Rochester in Moosic, Pa. His Triple-A batting average sits at .143 (3-for-21). The Yankees could ultimately decide to option Bird and keep him in the minors if this lack of production at the plate continues.
According to people in the know, he simply isn’t driving the ball like he did during the spring, when he hit a staggering .451 with eight homers.
Bird, who hit 11 homers and posted an .872 OPS during a 46-game stint with the Yankees in 2015, missed the entire 2016 campaign due to a shoulder injury.
“You want to see him swinging the bat and making hard contact,” Girardi said. “I mean, that’s the biggest thing, that he feels good at the plate.”
Bird’s fall is just as stunning as Aaron Judge’s rise. On Opening Day, Bird hit third for the Yankees and Judge hit eighth. Now, Judge, the favorite to capture AL MVP honors, is hitting third and Bird, who hasn’t been able to find his sweet swing from the spring, is hitting third for the RailRiders.
Bird fouled a ball off his ankle in the team’s final Grapefruit League game, and simply hasn’t been the same since. He tried to play through the injury, but went 6-for-60 at the plate and was placed on the 10-day disabled with a bone bruise in his right ankle on May 2.
The Yankees were hopeful he’d be back shortly. That hasn’t been the case.
Chris Carter continues to drive fans mad, leading them to ask on a daily basis when DFA-Day will be. Carter has a .669 OPS and minus-0.2 WAR, according to ESPN. On Tuesday night, he lost an accurate throw from Didi Gregorius in the lights and couldn’t catch it at first base. His error led to an unearned run.
There’s no doubt the Yankees miss Bird, or rather, the Bird they saw in the spring. But they’ve been easily able to overcome his absence due to the ascension of Judge and Gary Sanchez rediscovering his dominant hitting form from last season.
It doesn’t appear Bird is going to be back anytime soon. He’s simply going to have to earn his return.