He was supposed to be the heir apparent to Mark Teixeira at first base. Standing 6-foot-5 with power potential ensured that. Cut to 11 home runs in 46 games in the latter half of the 2015 season, and fans got excited.
Then, Bird blew out his shoulder and missed all of 2016. But it wasn’t such bad news, he would just be ready for 2017 at full strength. Bird proved the original Kyle Higashioka spring training sensation and hit eight home runs in Florida…and then struggled for a month before needing ankle surgery.
But not to worry! Bird came back to perform well in the postseason…and then was limited to 82 games in 2018 with more foot trouble. In 2019, he barely played at all before his foot acted up again.
Oh, and forget about two random minor league spots in a shortened 2020 season.
Now, after two years away, Bird is back with the Yankees on a minor league contract.
So what exactly has he been up to since?
The lost year
Let’s start back in November 2019, when the Yankees officially designated Bird for assignment. He was still recovering from a torn plantar fascia and settled for a minor league deal with the rebuilding Texas Rangers.
Cue a global pandemic completely upending the season, not to mention the whole world. The Rangers even recalled Bird from the minor league site, but another injury kept him from playing. He was released and finished out the year in the Phillies’ minor league camp.
It really seemed to be the end of the road, until it wasn’t.
Back to the roots
Let’s use “Game of Thrones” as an example here, specifically a scene between Daenerys Targaryen and the masked woman in Season 2. The young princess is told, “To go forward, you must go back.”
Greg Bird did exactly that in 2021. The former Aurora High School star signed a minor league deal with his hometown Colorado Rockies. If he couldn’t resurrect his career where it all began, then what could he do at all?
Thankfully for Bird, he flew high in 2021. Batting .244 with just one home run in spring training was enough to get sent to Triple-A Albuquerque. In turn, the young first baseman had his best season across minor and major league ball, batting .267 with 27 home runs and 91 RBI in 112 games.
And now, all signs point to Greg Bird being serious about continuing his MLB career. Playing well in Colorado was enough to earn a new minor league deal with the Blue Jays, and he hit .261 with a pair of homers this spring.
Now, he’s left the Jays for where it all really began, the New York Yankees. First base is crowded with Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, and even Joey Gallo able to play the position. Even with regular minor league at-bats, Bird doesn’t have a clear path to the majors.
Except this is the Yankees we’re talking about. Someone’s going to get injured at some point and the Scranton Shuttle will be needed. Brian Cashman loves his analytics and if his people say Bird is the one to call, then he’ll get the call.
After all he’s been through, he’ll certainly deserve it.