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Inbox: Is there a reason for Bird's struggles?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from Bombers fans
April 24, 2017

What do you make of Greg Bird's struggles? He looks lost. What happened? -- Owen S., Rehoboth Beach, Del.There's no way of sugarcoating the early returns on Bird's performance: they have not been pretty. Bird will head into this week's Red Sox series at Fenway Park carrying a .104/.204/.229 slash

What do you make of Greg Bird's struggles? He looks lost. What happened?
-- Owen S., Rehoboth Beach, Del.

There's no way of sugarcoating the early returns on Bird's performance: they have not been pretty. Bird will head into this week's Red Sox series at Fenway Park carrying a .104/.204/.229 slash line, which hardly seems possible considering the way that he was crushing the ball in Spring Training.
Had he batted this way in the first three weeks of Grapefruit League play, rather than early in the regular season, there would have been serious talk about having Bird begin the season in the Minors with Chris Carter playing every day at first base.
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Of course, that's not what happened, and it's going to take some time for Bird's numbers to recover. If you take away Bird's 3-for-3 game on April 16 game against the Cardinals, he started the year 2-for-45, which almost certainly had something to do with the nagging bruised ankle that he brought into the season.
The Yankees say that Bird has had consistent at-bats and point to the fact that Bird's 31.5 percent strikeout rate is only marginally higher than what he posted in the Majors two years ago. A .133 BABIP combined with a 48.4 percent hard-hit percentage suggests that Bird's luck should turn.
If you are the Yankees' management, are you on board with Aaron Judge taking part in the Home Run Derby (if asked)?
-- Jason S., Washington, D.C.

I think it would be fantastic. Judge's batting-practice sessions have become must-see viewing, as he routinely hits moonshots over the center-field restaurant at Yankee Stadium. Judge sounds like he's on board, and he wouldn't even necessarily have to be an All-Star to participate; Giancarlo Stanton took part in the Derby last year despite not being on the National League's roster for the Midsummer Classic.

There is always concern that taking part could precede injury or a flaw that impacts second-half performance (there have been studies that suggest it's a fallacy), while Judge's large frame offers an additional challenge to keep his mechanics in line. That said, the Yanks permitted Robinson Cano to go several times, and he won the Derby in 2011. Here's hoping Judge winds up in Miami this July.
Why is Brett Gardner starting over Aaron Hicks? The numbers don't lie; Hicks has just as good defense, more power and a better average.
-- Morley, Owensboro, Ky.

A good number of the questions that I've received have been asking why Chase Headley and Hicks are out of the lineup on any given day. There's something that I'm not sure anyone would have predicted this spring.
As far as this question goes, Hicks has made a nice adjustment to shorten his swing and produce some results, something that he wasn't able to do in a full season as the fourth outfielder last year. Gardner is not off to the start he would have liked, but I wouldn't go tearing up the plan based on 55 at-bats.
Manager Joe Girardi has said that he believes having Hicks in a heavy rotation will help the starters stay fresher down the stretch, perhaps allowing them to run more. Girardi suggested that Jacoby Ellsbury and Gardner should play five or six days a week, rather than eight to 10 days in a row.
What will happen with Ronald Torreyes' playing time when Didi Gregorius comes back? The team leader in RBIs shouldn't sit on the bench.
-- J.M. B., via Twitter

Torreyes' production has been above and beyond what the Yankees could have expected, but Girardi has made it clear that Gregorius will be the starting shortstop when he is ready to return. Torreyes could see some reps at shortstop against left-handed pitching, and he'll also fill in at second base and third base. There's value in having a player like Torreyes who can be productive off the bench; not everyone can do it.
With his numbers with the Yankees not mirroring his numbers with the Red Sox, do you think Ellsbury will be moved at or near the Trade Deadline?
-- Danny S., Buckeye, Ariz.

Short answer? No. Ellsbury has a full no-trade clause and came into this season with more than $89 million left on his contract. If you were an opposing general manager, would you be making that call? It's just not realistic to see Ellsbury playing for any other team in the near future.
What are your thoughts of trading Gardner to allow someone like Clint Frazier to come up?
-- Jim P., Auburn, N.H.

It's no secret that the Yankees have made Gardner available in several of the past few offseasons, but they're not at a point where they'd look to deal him -- especially to make room for Frazier, whom they'd like to give more time to develop at Triple-A. Brian Cashman dangled Gardner last offseason to try and upgrade the starting pitching, and that might still be the only scenario where they feel they could get fair value.
Who do you think will reach the big leagues first, Frazier or Gleyber Torres?
-- Tanner S., via Twitter

Neither is on the 40-man roster, but I'll guess that Frazier will get his first Major League at-bat this season - maybe as a September callup, or sooner if the injury bug hits hard. Torres' time is coming, but he's also a 20-year-old with just 10 games of Double-A experience thus far, so the Yanks will proceed cautiously if at all possible.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007.