Greg Bird entered the spring behind in the race for first base. But, he’s confident he can knock Luke Voit off the bag and onto the bench.
The most intriguing position battle of New York Yankees spring training just got even more interesting.
Greg Bird gained ground by homering and singling in a simulated game on Thursday. He tagged RHP Masahiro Tanaka for his long ball; however, his one-bagger was even more impressive, because it came against lefty James Paxton.
The 26-year-old told AP reporter Mark Didtler that his early success is a result of offseason grinding.
“I was able to start over and get to where I needed to be, and work from the ground up,” Bird said. “I didn’t change anything. I just got back to where I needed to be.”
The fact that Bird is a lefty gives him a tremendous advantage over Voit. The Yankees lineup is packed with right-handed hitters, especially with lefty shortstop Didi Gregorius out due to injury.
If Voit wins the starting job, the only lefties in the lineup will be switch-hitting Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner. Furthermore, Gardner could lose his hold on left field to right-handed swinger Clint Frazier.
Thanks to this situation, Bird likely needs to show only a couple flashes of improvement to force a platoon setup at first base. If he catches fire, an everyday job could be in the cards.
Bird slashed .199/.286/.386 in 311 plate appearances last season. 28-year-old Voit took over at first base by hitting .333/.405/.689 and crushing 14 bombs in 39 games.
Those numbers are certainly in the back of Aaron Boone’s mind. However, a few good spring showings from one or the other player will change everything.
The Voit-Bird showdown will really start to heat up on Feb. 23, when the Bombers play their first game of the spring.