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Healthy Bird focused on showing off defense

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- If you had asked first baseman Greg Bird a month ago if he felt ready to play in a big league game, he would have enthusiastically responded in the affirmative. Yet he understood why the team wanted to proceed cautiously, given his recent injury history.

Now that Bird has been given the green light and has knocked off the rust, reaching double digits in games played with Friday's Subway Series opener against the Mets, he is focused on giving Yankees fans a clearer idea of what he can do with an uninterrupted schedule.

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NEW YORK -- If you had asked first baseman Greg Bird a month ago if he felt ready to play in a big league game, he would have enthusiastically responded in the affirmative. Yet he understood why the team wanted to proceed cautiously, given his recent injury history.

Now that Bird has been given the green light and has knocked off the rust, reaching double digits in games played with Friday's Subway Series opener against the Mets, he is focused on giving Yankees fans a clearer idea of what he can do with an uninterrupted schedule.

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"I've really taken a lot of pride in my defense in the last few years, so going out and playing every day and showing people what I can do is the biggest thing," Bird said. "Play good defense, be a threat in the lineup and play my game."

The Yankees saw glimpses of Bird's potential over the years, most notably with his 11-homer showing at the end of 2015 while he filled in for an injured Mark Teixeira and down the stretch in 2017, highlighted by his game-winning homer off the Indians' Andrew Miller in Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium.

Video: Must C Clutch: Bird sends go-ahead homer soaring

Bird wishes that he could add memorable moments to that list, pushing an injury history that has included surgery on his right shoulder labrum (2016) and two surgeries on his right ankle (2017, '18) farther into the past.

"That has been one of the more challenging things for me, dealing with injuries," Bird said. "In '15 I thought I'd come back and the next year be ready to go. I wasn't. Same thing [in 2016]. [In] '17 I put in a lot of work, and I just have always wanted to do that -- get out there, play and just show what I can do."

Citi slicker

Manager Aaron Boone did not experience a Subway Series as a player, having been traded to the Yankees by the Reds on July 31, 2003, about a month after that year's festivities had already concluded. So he has been looking forward to his first in-uniform glimpse of the crosstown rivalry.

"I've been excited all week for this, honestly," Boone said. "Just to see the two fan bases get together in this great city, I'm excited for it. I had a few more 'Good lucks' this morning at breakfast."

King of Queens

Mets fans were not sorry to see Giancarlo Stanton traded out of the National League East. His 21 homers in 52 games at Citi Field -- all in the road gray uniforms of the Marlins -- are the most of any active player. His .613 slugging percentage at the ballpark is the highest among players with a minimum of 100 at-bats in Flushing.

"Whether he's in Citi Field or Yellowstone, he's going to rake when he's synced up and locked in," Boone said. "I feel like he's had a week where he's had some really good at-bats. Coming into a place that's a little more familiar, hopefully he'll just take that into tonight."

This date in Yankees history

June 8, 1969: "Mickey Mantle Day" was celebrated at Yankee Stadium as The Mick's No. 7 jersey and a plaque were unveiled in his honor. The Yankees swept a doubleheader from the White Sox by scores of 3-1 and 11-2.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.

New York Yankees, Greg Bird