The day that Greg Bird waited months for finally arrived and it proved eventful.
Bird’s long journey back from injury to the Yankees lineup ended on Saturday with him coming off the disabled list to start at first base. He went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, scored a run and got thrown out on a close play at the plate in the Yanks’ 6-3 win over Seattle at the Stadium. It was his first game since early May.
“[He was] Really good, his at-bats,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Very patient. Really good eye today. [That] is what we’re used to seeing from Greg. I think he could have a big impact.”
It wouldn’t be the first time. Bird came up in August of 2015 and hit 11 homers and drove in 31 runs to help the Yanks reach earn a wild card. Bird is expected to play a lot of first base and some DH the rest of the way, but Girardi said he won’t start every day until his conditioning imporves.
In the Yankees’ blueprint for the 2017 season, Bird was supposed to be the starting first baseman. On Opening day he was the No. 3 hitter in the batting order following a torrid-hitting spring training. But he was trying to play through an injury, suffered when he fouled a ball off his right ankle in the final Grapefruit League game. He went on the DL at the start of May with what the team termed a ‘bone bruise,’ having hit .100 with one home run in 19 games.
Two and a half months later he would require surgery on the injured area. He has the procedure on July 18 to remove what Bird called “an extra bone — two actually.” While that might sound like a season-ender, Bird said it was mapped out for him to return. “The way it was laid out to me, I knew I was going to be back this year,” he said.
“It was really reassuring to have an answer because for a while there we didn’t have an answer,” Bird said. “To have an answer was nice and to fix it was even better. It’s been feeling great and I’m excited.”
Things happened quickly after that. He began baseball activities about a week after the surgery and by Friday night when he was removed from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre’s game, he’d been in nine minor league rehab games and hit .423 with three home runs and six RBI.
“It was fun and a good win to be a part of,” Bird said. “I just tried to carry over what I have been working on and that’s staying patient and having good at-bats. Just keep things simple and let it roll.”
Bird was tested quickly. After drawing a second-inning walk and taking second on a sacrifice, he tried to score on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single to left. He was thrown out at the plate by ex-Yank Ben Gamel, but said that in the sprint “I felt no limitations.”
“It was a perfect throw,” Girardi said.
He also ripped a single to right in the fourth and scored on Ellsbury’s three-run homer and walked in the two-run seventh.
When he was trying to play through the ankle injury, Bird said “it [affected] a lot of different things” about his swing. All of that is gone now. “It’s a feel game and I think I have the feel for it now,” he said.