Mark Teixeira can relate to Greg Bird and not just because of the obvious connection.
Two seasons ago Teixeira, then the Yankees first baseman, suffered what initially was diagnosed as a bone bruise in his lower right leg. About a month later, after a third MRI, it was discovered to be a break.
The Yankees are optimistic Bird, their current first baseman whom they placed on the disabled list Tuesday with a right ankle bruise caused by a foul ball he hit off it March 30, did not suffer a break.
Teixeira, who retired last October after eight years with the Yankees and now an analyst with ESPN, said given Bird’s ankle issue it’s not surprising the 24-year-old got off to the rough start he did — 6-for-60 with one homer and three RBIs in 19 games.
“Hitting a baseball is very technical, it’s very precise, it takes a lot of skill,” Teixeira said by phone Wednesday. “We are programmed to have a sequencing in our swing that is repeated over and over and over again. When you have any type of injury, especially something with your lower body that sets off a different sequence or sets off a different hitch in that swing, then that’s where you get off just enough to get into a bad slump. My guess is that’s what Birdie’s going through right now. His timing was just off enough because the sequencing in his swing got disturbed because of that injury. Hitting a baseball is extremely difficult when you’re 100 percent healthy.”
Teixeira averaged 153 games a season from 2003-11 before his body started betraying him. The switch hitter still finished with 1,862 career hits, including 408 homers, and has been a mentor of sorts for Bird.
Teixeira, slated to be at Wrigley Field Sunday for ESPN’s pregame show for that night’s Yankees-Cubs game, spent some time with Bird in 2013 when the former was at the minor-league complex in Tampa rehabbing a right wrist tendon sheath tear that would eventually require surgery.
Teixeira’s broken leg in August 2015 opened the door for Bird, who produced after his call-up, hitting 11 home runs in 157 at-bats. Teixeira encouraged Bird then and still periodically talks and/or texts the young first baseman.
“What I’ve tried to tell Birdie in some conversations and some text messages is, ‘You may not have a long track record, but you do have a track record,’ ” Teixeira said. “You had a great September when you filled in for me in 2015, you had a great spring training [this year], you know you can hit. It’s just a matter of trusting that talent. That scoreboard might look ugly, but just continue to trust yourself.”