FORT MYERS, Fla. —Even though his performance to this point could not be more different from last year’s, success in February and March isn’t Greg Bird’s goal.
“I always want to get in there and compete, but I feel like right now my mindset is getting ready for the season,” he said Saturday.
The first baseman spoke after going 0-for-2 with a walk in the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over the Red Sox. That dropped him to 1-for-12 in spring training a year after he compiled a .451/.556/1.098 slash line with a Grapefruit League-leading eight home runs. That had the Yankees and their fans dreaming of what his textbook lefthanded swing would produce in the regular season, especially at Yankee Stadium.
All of it, of course, was quickly forgotten when Bird fouled a ball off his right foot in the last exhibition game. The bone bruise it caused led to a long stint on the disabled list and, eventually, surgery.
While the disappointment of playing only 48 games in 2017 lingered, it’s not the reason Bird altered his approach to spring training this year.
“I think the past few years has been more about getting ready for the first day of spring, to be completely honest,” he said. “But right now my main goal is to get ready for Day 1 of the regular season and be feeling good for Day 1.”
In past years, Bird said, he wanted to be ready on Day 1 of spring training for a variety of reasons, most of which revolved around impressing teammates and the manager.
“Trying to prove myself, make a good impression for the coaches and show that I belong with those guys [big-leaguers],’’ he said. “I think you always get out there and compete and you always have to show that and show a sense of urgency there, but really that’s been my main focus [this year], pacing myself, keeping things in perspective and get ready for the season. That’s why I’m here.”
His roster spot obviously isn’t in question, but it’s fair to bring up the fact that he hasn’t made it through a full season, Bird acknowledged. “I haven’t done it yet,” he said.
In fact, as a precaution, the Yankees signed Adam Lind to a minor-league deal Friday as insurance.
The news has been positive on the health front thus far, though. Bird has looked fine in the field and said his issue at the plate during the first week-plus of games primarily has been timing. That’s the result, he thinks, of not seeing as much live batting practice as in past years.
“I might try to go out and get live at-bats [Sunday]. I think there’s some live BPs, so that would be good,” Bird said. “That was kind of my thought in the past; early on, I’ve gotten more live at-bats, even before games started. [This year] I kind of wanted to see where I was at and felt if I needed to, I can always get more later.”
He added, “I’m seeing the ball fine,” and the rest will come.
“I wouldn’t say I’m going up there and just swinging away at the ball. That would worry me more,” Bird said. “I’m seeing it well and now it’s just about matching the swing with the visual stuff. Really, I feel I’m in a good place. I’m comfortable with where I’m at.”
So is his manager.
“He hasn’t really popped yet,” Aaron Boone said. “But even when he’s right now still trying to find his timing, his rhythm, you’re still seeing the walks, you’re still seeing him for the most part control the [strike] zone. I’m good with it.”