The Yankees’ best first baseman of this century, Mark Teixeira, believes fans have reason to be “very concerned” about their current first baseman, Greg Bird, his troublesome lower right leg and his early-career injury history.
“I think the biggest question is if this becomes a problem for the rest of his season or the rest of his career, then you’re really missing out on a really important talent and an important bat in that lineup,” Teixeira, an ESPN analyst, said on a Monday morning conference call to promote the coming season.
He added: “All Yankee fans are holding their breath right now.”
Five hours later, after an examination by Dr. Martin O’Malley, they got the news that Bird will undergo surgery Tuesday to remove a small broken spur in his right ankle and is expected to be out six to eight weeks.
Bird missed all of 2016 with a shoulder injury and was limited to 48 games last season because of right ankle surgery.
“I would be very concerned,” Teixeira said. “Unfortunately, when you have one injury, you can kind of brush it aside. Even two. But when things keep popping up, when they become an issue it seems over and over again, you do start worrying.
“We’re not talking about a 35-year-old at the end of his career. You expect those things from older players. This is a guy who’s just started his career, 300 at-bats in the big leagues. So you do worry that maybe either he’s the most unlucky player in baseball or there’s something physically that he’s not able to heal as well as some players.”
Bird, 25, is a vital piece of the Yankees in the field and at the plate, where his lefthanded swing will balance the team’s righthanded power.
“Greg Bird has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, and we saw in the playoffs last year when he’s healthy, he is lethal,” Teixeira said. “Especially that balance he provides as a lefthanded bat at Yankee Stadium is really important.
“I don’t think that the Yankees are going to be as hurt by missing a few games as many teams could be. Neil Walker was brought on to be maybe that super-utility guy. He’s got plenty of experience in the big leagues and in big markets, and what I saw from him at first base in Tampa when I was down there for a few days, he’d be fine to handle that job for a few days. You have Tyler Austin, who’s had some success in the minor leagues and the big leagues, that can handle it.”
Still, Bird is Plan A.
“I’ve seen it throughout my career — guys that they work their tail off and they’re in shape and they try everything they can, but they just seem to get hurt over and over again,” Teixeira said. “You see it more and more with pitchers than with position players. Again, I hope that’s not the case with Greg, but the Yankees should be concerned here.”