Bird thinks 'sky is the limit' for 2018 Yankees
First baseman is healthy heading into new season and has abundance of confidence
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees' patience was rewarded when Greg Bird returned from the disabled list to deliver some of the team's biggest hits in September and October. After several injury-marred seasons, the young slugger says that he is "anxious" to prove he can offer consistent big league production.
"I think people saw it, but I want to do it for a full season," Bird said on Thursday. "I've got to do it for a full season. That's what it's all about, and that's what I want to do."
The 25-year-old Bird is among the earliest-arriving position players at the Yankees' Player Development complex, and said that he has gathered a sense of general optimism from his teammates. After shocking the rest of the baseball world in a so-called "rebuilding" year, the 2018 Yankees are being touted as favorites.
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"It's a good feeling. We're on the map, and that's good," Bird said. "We said we were going to surprise people last year. That was our thing, and this year it's not a surprise anymore. We're a good team and people know that. They're going to be coming after us, and we're going to be going after them."
Bird said that he expects a spot in the heart of the Yanks' batting order, alongside Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, whom Bird said he is looking forward to meeting. His initial reaction to the December trade with the Marlins: "Can't hurt!"
"I think there's a lot of possibilities there," Bird said. "I think our pitching staff has a chance to be really good too, which is huge. They're going to carry us. The offense will be good, I think, and that pitching staff can do a lot of damage too. You match those up and you've got a great team. Then you make it a good clubhouse like it is, and it's even better."
Bird enjoyed a monster spring in 2017, leading all big leaguers in extra-base hits (16) while belting eight homers, but a March 30 foul ball off his right ankle in Clearwater, Fla. derailed the course of his season.
Eventually requiring surgery to remove the os trigonum bone in his right ankle, Bird returned from the disabled list on Aug. 26 and collected 14 runs, eight homers and 25 RBIs in 29 games, batting .480 (12-for-25) with runners in scoring position. He also cracked three postseason homers, including a deciding blast off Andrew Miller in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.
"It's been an interesting couple of years," said Bird, who missed all of 2016 while recovering from right labrum surgery. "I can't wait. I like playing, I like being back."
Bird said his ankle feels good after some offseason physical therapy and balance work, adding that the sting of the season-ending loss to the Astros in the seven-game American League Championship Series was quickly replaced by excitement over what 2018 might bring.
"I was just ready to go again," Bird said. "After we lost, it was upsetting, but it was like, 'All right, let's go again. Let's get ready to go again.' And who better to do it with than these guys? It's an awesome group. We're close and we know each other well. The sky is the limit."