TAMPA, Fla. (CBSNewYork) — Greg Bird, whose status as Mark Teixeira’s heir apparent was tossed in doubt when he missed last season with a shoulder injury last year, has officially won the Yankees’ starting first base job.
Manager Joe Girardi announced his decision Wednesday morning.
The move was expected. Bird entered spring training as the favorite, and general manager Brian Cashman openly admitted he hoped Bird would claim the job. But knowing there was a chance Bird might not bounce back quickly, the Yankees created competition between him, Tyler Austin and Chris Carter, last year’s co-home run champ in the National League.
Austin was quickly counted out after a foul ball fractured his left foot early in spring training. And while Carter packs great power, his .218 career batting average makes him a less-than-ideal starting first baseman, especially with a high-upside option such as Bird, 24, on the roster. Carter’s .118 spring batting average certainly hasn’t helped his case, either.
Bird burst onto the scene in August 2015 after Teixeira, who retired after last season, went out with a leg injury that later proved to be season ending. In 46 games, Bird batted .261 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs.
Just before spring training last year, Bird was diagnosed with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, requiring surgery. Because Bird had limited big-league experience, was coming off major surgery and had not played for a full year, some observers questioned whether he would be ready to take over at first base by Opening Day this season.
But Bird, a fifth-round draft pick by the Yankees in 2011, has done his part to erase doubts this spring, hitting .421 (16-for-38) with four home runs and six RBIs.