Even with a new first baseman in the picture, Greg Bird still has his eyes set on earning his spot on the New York Yankees roster.
After all, any time a man who just hit 41 home runs the previous season is added to the roster, there’s a chance he might merit some playing time.
“I have to earn it,” Bird told Dan Martin of the New York Post. “I think you always have to earn it. Coming into 2015, my goal was to make the team. Obviously, [Teixeira] was there, but my mentality was to make the team and do my job and show them what I have. And that will be [my approach] this spring.”
After Mark Teixeira went down with a broken leg in 2015, Bird stepped in as the first baseman and didn’t disappoint as he slashed .261/.343/.529 with 11 home runs in 46 games — a total of 38 when proportioned to a full season.
Bird’s 31 RBI’s were additionally the second-most by a member of the Yankees who played in less than 50 games in his rookie campaign.
Unfortunately, rather than a promising sophomore season, the 24-year old decided to operate on a torn right labrum that would keep him sidelined for the entirety of 2016.
“I missed a whole year,” Bird also told the Post. “I have to prove to them that I can play again and play at a high level and be a quality part of the team.”
Carter, who inked a one-year, $3.5 million contract with New York on Tuesday, has hit 131 home runs since 2013 (sixth-best in baseball) and finished tied with Nolan Arenado for the National League lead a year ago.
Pressure on Bird? Not a lick. In fact, he’s loving the addition.
“I think we’re happy to have [Carter], honestly,” Bird also told the Post. “It’s another big bat and a good bat. I think he can bring a lot to the table. I’m excited to meet him.”
Bird, despite slashing just .215/.346/.364 with one home run in 17 Arizona Fall League games, will enter camp next week as the favorite to earn the first base job. If that AFL rust doesn’t go away, however, things could get interesting.
Even if the rust does disappear, it’s worthy to note that in his first cup of coffee, Bird went 10-for-42 (.238) and hit just two home runs off left-handed pitching while striking out in 33.7 percent of his at-bats in 2015.
If health problems or just plain inefficiencies rise to surface regarding Bird, turning to a guy like Carter is a solid insurance plan.
Nevertheless, the Yankees would be better off if their fifth round pick of the 2011 amateur draft made that insurance position completely unnecessary.