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Pretty, Bird! Barreled-ball HR a good sign for 1B

MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- Despite the lopsided score, Greg Bird was able to find a silver lining within the sweet spot of his bat barrel on Wednesday evening, slugging his first homer since April 16 in the Yankees' 9-4 loss to the Indians.

The three-run blast off Zach McAllister was just Bird's second of the season, having lost most of his campaign to a right ankle injury that eventually required surgery. More important, it offered promise that Bird might be recapturing his stroke at a key juncture.

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NEW YORK -- Despite the lopsided score, Greg Bird was able to find a silver lining within the sweet spot of his bat barrel on Wednesday evening, slugging his first homer since April 16 in the Yankees' 9-4 loss to the Indians.

The three-run blast off Zach McAllister was just Bird's second of the season, having lost most of his campaign to a right ankle injury that eventually required surgery. More important, it offered promise that Bird might be recapturing his stroke at a key juncture.

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"It felt good," Bird said. "I'm just trying to keep things simple and have good at-bats. I feel like I've been doing that. I think I can get better, but so far, so good. You can always use the barrel more, so for me, [I need to] keep getting good pitches and putting good swings on them."

Video: CLE@NYY: Bird brings home Judge on an RBI single

Bird appeared primed for a monster season when he paced the Grapefruit League with eight homers, but a fluke foul ball in a March 30 exhibition against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., derailed that. Bird limped to a .100 batting average through 19 games with what was thought to be a bone bruise.

After a stalled rehab stint, the Yankees almost gave up hope on Bird's return following July 18 surgery to remove the os trigonum bone from his right ankle. Bird has had no issues since, slugging three homers during his recent Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said he views Bird as the team's starting first baseman going forward, with Chase Headley moving between the infield corners to spell Bird and Todd Frazier. Bird's blast off McAllister traveled 412 feet according to Statcast™.

"[The home run] is a good sign," Girardi said. "Obviously he's really important to us as well. We feel that he can provide power for us from the left side. You do take a little bit from that."

Bird went hitless in four at-bats as the designated hitter in the first game of the twinbill, a 2-1 Yankees loss. He then drove in all four of the Yankees' runs in the second game, also notching a second-inning RBI single off Cleveland starter Ryan Merritt.

"The guys in front of me were doing their jobs the whole day, so I was just trying to put together good at-bats and I got a good pitch to hit," Bird said.

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

New York Yankees, Greg Bird