When Greg Bird was asked where his balance at the plate had been during the last few weeks, he shrugged and looked to the ceiling of the Yankees’ clubhouse.
“Somewhere,” he joked. “Somewhere.”
During Friday night’s 8-1 win over the Red Sox at the Stadium, he found his balance. Twice.
The slumping first baseman hit two home runs — one against Eduardo Rodriguez in the fourth inning and one against Justin Haley in the eighth — to lead a four-homer romp by the Yankees.
“What we believe he brings is that lefthanded, on-base power guy in this ballpark in the middle of breaking up our righties,” manager Aaron Boone said. “When he’s right, he’s a big deal for our offense.”
Bird entered Friday’s game with a .191 batting average and was battling the expectation that Brandon Drury will begin to take a few starts away from him at first base. He said he was most pleased with his homer off Rodriguez, which lifted him to 2-for-16 against lefthanders this season. He drove the ball to the opposite field and over the leftfield fence.
“When I’m going that way, it’s good,” he said. “I’m happy with that.”
Aaron Judge, who also homered, said “it was only a matter of time” before Bird broke free of his prolonged slump.
To say Bird had struggled would be a massive understatement. In 72 at-bats in his previous 23 games entering Friday, Bird limped to a slash line of .167/.302/.333. But through it all, Boone said he still liked his at-bats and process.
That, and the fact that Bird was 3-for-9 with a home run against Rodriguez entering the game, led Boone to pencil him into the seventh spot in the lineup.
“The one thing really what he always does is control the strike zone,” Boone said. “He controls the zone, especially east and west. He’s real disciplined at laying off tough pitches. I feel like that’s been good all along.”
With Drury now on the 25-man roster, Bird could see his playing time against lefties diminish. With Chris Sale and David Price scheduled to start Saturday night and Sunday night, general manager Brian Cashman suggested before the game that Drury could find a start at first before the series is over.
Still, Bird might have forced Boone’s hand. He wouldn’t reveal whether Bird’s performance will alter his plans for the lineup.
“Perhaps, perhaps,” Boone said with a smirk. “I’ll think about that a little bit.”
Just as Boone must balance the lineup, Bird must balance his approach.
“For me, balance is key,” he said. “Finding my balance. I really try to slow things down . . . and just find that balance.”