TAMPA — Greg Bird was back in familiar territory Saturday afternoon, roaming around George M. Steinbrenner Field and flashing his easy strength in batting practice.
But the first baseman also had long hair, a beard and good health — he never had the first two with the Yankees and the third not often enough.
Bird, who seemed like a cornerstone for the Yankees not too long ago, is now attempting to make his comeback to the major leagues with the Blue Jays. He signed a minor league contract earlier this month with an invite to big league camp and looks set to have a shot at making Toronto’s Opening Day roster.
“You always think [what if]’ Bird said of his tenure with the Yankees before hitting a two-run homer in Saturday’s exhibition. “But you look back on the past and learn from it instead of dealing with it. It’s fun to reminisce and talk about. I will forever hold memories that I took with me [Aaron Judge] and other guys. But it happened the way it happened and you can’t change it. We had fun and I’m looking forward to seeing him play and playing against him now.”
The judge described Bird as one of the best sluggers he’s ever played with — “I still think so,” the Yankees slugger said Saturday — but Bird’s time in the Bronx was derailed by injuries. There was surgery for a torn labrum that kept him sidelined for all of 2016, and ankle and foot injuries that limited him to just 140 games from 2017-19.
The Yankees had finally seen enough after the 2019 season and designated Bird for action, and he hasn’t returned to the big leagues since, having signed minor-league deals with the Rangers, Phillies and Rockies.
But Bird still had a “super” important year in 2021, staying healthy for an entire season while playing 112 games with an .894 OPS for the Rockies’ Triple-A partner.
“It sucks to be a baseball player and not play baseball,” Bird said. “Mentally it’s like scar tissue, I guess that’s how I explain it.”
Bird hopes to use this experience to his advantage to revitalize his career. After Saturday, he hit 5-on-12 with a double, two home runs, home runs and five walks in six Grapefruit League games. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has the stranglehold on first base, but there’s a potential spot for Bird as his backup.
“I have to keep going,” Bird said. “There’s still a lot of spring left. I have to keep working hard and show them I can do it.”
And even if he does become the Yankees’ AL East nemesis, Bird will still have some fans in the Bronx.
“He’s a force to be reckoned with,” Judge said. “That’s one thing he never lost, he could always swing the racquet when he was healthy. I want him to do all those things, just not against us.”
— Additional reporting by Dan Martin
https://nypost.com/2022/03/27/ex-yankee-greg-bird-looking-to-resurrect-career-with-blue-jays/ Ex-Yankee Greg Bird wants to revive his career with the Blue Jays