Those holding out hope that Greg Bird will be the answer to the Yankees’ woes at first base will have to keep waiting.
Speaking to reporters for the first time in more than a week Thursday at Yankee Stadium, Bird offered little clarity on when he’ll return to help a team receiving minimal production from its alternatives at the position.
The 24-year-old received a cortisone shot in his right ankle Wednesday, which will sideline him for three to five days. His rehab was shut down June 15 because of a right knee contusion, but the ankle continues to be a problem.
“I felt like I was making improvement and kind of getting where I wanted to be,” said Bird, who produced a .100/.250/.200 slash line in 19 games before going on the 10-day disabled list on May 2. “I don’t want to be shut down again, but it needs to get better. That’s the plain and simple answer, I guess.”
Before Thursday night’s game against the Angels, Yankees first basemen ranked last in the majors in OPS (.598) and batting average (.173).
Chris Carter entered play hitting .201 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs, far from good enough to compensate for his defensive shortcomings. But as Brian Cashman said Wednesday, he’s the team’s best option right now.
Bird reaffirmed his potential to be a key cog in the Yankees’ youth movement with a torrid spring training in which he had a .451/.556/.1.098 slash line with eight homers, 15 RBIs and 23 hits in 51 at-bats. This came after he missed all of 2016 with a torn labrum.
But after fouling a ball off his right foot on March 30 in an exhibition game in Clearwater, Florida, Bird scuffled through the first month of the regular season before being put on the DL.
“One of the things I felt like I was dealing with before I got shut down the first time was I just having a problem being on and off my foot and rotating on that foot,” Bird said.
He began a rehab assignment on June 1 and hit .237 with nine hits (four doubles) in 38 at-bats in 12 games before being shut down.
Manager Joe Girardi said that when Bird is cleared to restart baseball activities, he’ll “go back to rehab and start playing games and try to get his bat going.”
Bird said he’s unsure of how many more at-bats the team would like him to have in the minors before he is activated.
“I don’t necessarily think I need that many at-bats,” Bird said. “I felt fine seeing the ball. It was just when I go to make a move at the ball, it’s not there.”