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Greg Bird says he's up for challenge of first-base battle

After three injury-plagued seasons and losing his job to Luke Voit, the lefty slugger says he's healthy and ready to prove himself. 

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird works out on

Yankees first baseman Greg Bird works out on the field at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla. on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

TAMPA, Fla. – It goes without saying the last few seasons have been primarily frustration and not much else for Greg Bird.

So the 26-year-old, not too long ago considered one of the top prospects in the Yankees’ organization because of his smooth lefty swing and visions of what it might accomplish at the Stadium, sees no need to say it. 

“That’s in the past now, that’s the best part,” Bird said Tuesday after working out at the Yankees minor league complex, where he’s been a consistent presence since January. “It's last year and the year before that and now it’s this year. So I’m just excited to get back out there. Really excited to get going in spring and get playing games. That’s the biggest thing.”

But the starting job at first, once considered automatic for Bird, is no longer his.

Going into spring training, which officially begins for Yankees’ position players Feb. 19, it belongs to Luke Voit. The right-handed hitting Voit excelled after coming over from the Cardinals in a trade deadline deal that was hardly heralded at the time.

But after assuming every day first base duties from the struggling Bird Aug. 24, the 27-year-old Voit hit .351 with a 1.190 OPS with 14 homers the rest of the regular season. Bird, as a result, was left off the wild-card game roster and then the Division Series roster.

Bird, who missed all of 2016 recovering from shoulder surgery and was then limited to 48 games in 2017 because of a bone bruise on his right ankle that would eventually require surgery, thought last season would be different. It was not.

Just as spring training was coming to an end came the news he would need surgery on the same ankle for an unrelated issue. Bird didn’t make his 2018 debut until May 26 and his season never got going. He ended the year with a .199/.286/.386 slash line with 11 homers and 38 RBI in 82 games.

Bird, whom GM Brian Cashman always called the Yankees’ best hitting prospect during his time in the minors, said all of his ankle issues are behind him.

After taking two months off after the season, he dived into his offseason work in January with no restrictions.

“I took some time off after the year and got to where I needed to be,” said Bird, who resides in the Tampa area. “I’m able to work. I’ve been able to get the work in that I wanted to get in and work on things that I wanted to work on and just get back to a normal place.”

Bird, a Yankees’ fifth-round pick in 2011 who made his big-league debut in 2015, said he has no problems with Cashman saying this winter Voit would have a “leg up” in the spring training first base competition.

“I love challenges,” Bird said. “He [Voit] obviously came up and was a huge part of our success so that’s awesome. I like challenges. It’ll be a fun spring for sure.”

Bird said he was “very confident” he would be up to that challenge.

“I was able to have a normal offseason and I’m just in a place where I want to be,” he said.

Asked directly if he felt he could beat out Voit for the job, Bird smiled.

“I’m just excited to play again to be honest,” Bird said. “I’m excited to get playing and I’m looking forward to that. [Having] a healthy season and having a healthy spring and just getting back with the guys and going out there and playing.”

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