Greg Bird wins Yankees' starting first base job

After a year-long hiatus, Bird is the word once again in New York. After missing the entire 2016 season due to injury, slugger Greg Bird has been named the Yankees starting first baseman for the 2017 season. 

Photo Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

Bird has exceled this spring, becoming one of only three qualified Yankees with a batting average above .400, posting a phenomenal .432 average with six home runs and 11 RBI thus far this spring. With his stellar play this spring, Bird has solidified his spot in Girardi’s Opening Day lineup. 

Bird became a fan favorite during the 2015 campaign after hitting .261 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in just 46 games filling in for the injured Mark Teixeira.  Bird was also one of only three Yankees to record a hit in New York’s embarrassing 3-0 loss to the Houston Astros in the 2015 AL Wild Card game.

The announcement came as little surprise to Yankees fans, with Bird entering the spring campaign as the favorite to win the starting first base job, vacated with Teixeira’s retirement after the 2016 season. Bird’s competition included Chris Carter, who led the National League in home runs a year ago.  Carter has hit a meager .118 with one home run thus far this spring, striking out in an alarming 20 of his 37 at-bats, making the decision a no-brainer for the Yankees brass. It also looks as if newly-acquired Matt Holliday and his .308 batting average will become the everyday DH, raising questions about Carter’s role with the squad this season.

The announcement was made late Wednesday morning by manager Joe Girardi, with the news later being confirmed by General Manager Brian Cashman. Cashman had previously stated that he hoped Bird, whom the veteran GM drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 amateur draft, would claim the starting role.  

Since sustaining a labrum tear in his right shoulder last February, many doubted the possibility of a return by Bird in time for Opening Day. The labrum is a piece of fibrocartilage in the shoulder meant to keep the ball of the joint in the socket.  An injury to the labrum greatly inhibits mobility, making it detrimental to baseball players, especially while swinging a bat. Due to his limited experience in Major League Baseball, having played just 47 career games at the major-league level between regular season and postseason play, many questioned Bird's durability, as well as ability to rebound from injury. 

Bird proved his doubters wrong with a phenomenal spring, both in the field and at the plate, making Girardi’s decision his easiest of the spring. 

Article by Matthew Smith

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