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Yankees' Greg Bird plans to 'keep going' to play his way out of season-long slump

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird heads toward first

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird heads toward first base after hitting his grand slam during the first inning against the Blue Jays on Aug. 19, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

BALTIMORE — Greg Bird rarely expresses public disappointment in himself, at times to the irritation of fans.

And so it was notable late Wednesday night when the first baseman, after a hitless night in the Yankees’ 9-3 loss to the Marlins, said this of his inability to get things going at the plate this season: “It [stinks] to [stink].’’

Bird went 0-for-4 Wednesday, extending his hitless streak to 13 at-bats. It’s the kind of skid that has become all too familiar this season for Yankees fans. Bird enters Friday night’s opener of a four-game series against the Orioles with a .202/.292/.397 slash line, 11 homers and 35 RBIs in 72 games. In his last 21 games, he is 9-for-74 with 20 strikeouts and has a .122/.195/.243 slash line.

Those are, needless to say, far from the numbers Bird and the Yankees expected to see this season.

Aaron Boone, who has been and remains a staunch defender, hinted at a bit of frustration with what has amounted to a season-long slump. Asked if he is concerned about Bird, Boone didn’t dispute the notion.

“Yeah,” he said. “We’ve seen just in and out, that authority through the zone, and it’s hard to put our finger on it. I thought we saw a couple games there at home where I thought he was really impacting the ball. There was some force through the zone, and then here [in Miami], it’s been a little bit more back to not that life through the zone.”

Bird’s injury history is well documented, and this season began with him on the disabled list as he recovered from surgery to remove a bone spur in his right foot, which kept him out of the lineup until May 26. The numbers, for the most part, haven’t been there.

Bird had one good stretch from July 2 to July 29 in which he hit .289 with an .867 OPS, four homers, four doubles, nine walks and 18 RBIs in 21 games. But another skid followed.

In the home games Boone alluded to, Bird homered last Saturday and Sunday against the Blue Jays – one was a grand slam – but an 0-for-10 stretch with four strikeouts against the Marlins followed.

“Just not consistent,” Bird said in explaining why he hasn’t gotten on track. “And I know that’s vague, but with my timing, it just hasn’t been consistent, so [you] just keep working at it. That’s the biggest thing. Just keep getting in the cage with the guys and keep going.”

Which isn’t to say Bird, regardless of perception, is ho-hum about his difficulties, something he described as being “frustrated” with.

“But it is what it is,” he said. “Turn the page and show up tomorrow . . . It’s no fun going out and not performing, but you just have to keep going, in anything in life, and that’s kind of what I fall back on always. Keep working, keep going, keep trying to figure it out and keep having fun. Keep playing. Keep playing the game.”

There are no indications that Bird will be bench-bound anytime soon, but the switch-hitting Neil Walker has shown himself to be a capable fill-in. Fans on social media who spent the first two-plus months of the season wanting Walker cut now are clamoring for Walker to take over for Bird entirely.

Boone made it clear that he still believes in Bird, but just as clear is a level of perplexity not previously expressed.

“We’ve got to be able to put our finger on it, help him find that consistency,” Boone said. “I know he’s working hard at it, but we’ve got to start finding that more on a consistent basis because when he’s impacting it through the zone, he’s obviously dynamic with his ability to control the strike zone. But that’s just been something that since he’s come back has very much been in and out.”

The Yankees (79-47) fell 9 1/2  games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox (90-39) on Thursday but moved four games ahead of Oakland for the first wild card. They  are eight games ahead of Seattle for the second wild card.

New York Sports