While Mark Teixeira helped bring a World Series ring back to the Bronx in his first year in pinstripes, there is no denying that his career had seen better days entering 2016. Instead of figuring out how to move Tex and his big contract, he stepped off quietly out of the spotlight and retired, leaving behind an outstanding career.
The timing couldn’t be better for the Yankees, as Greg Bird is back out in the desert and it seems he has found his groove for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Bird of course was somewhat of a surprise in his 2015 debut, playing much better than some expected. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of high school in Colorado, Bird started to make waves after a big 2013 in Charleston. The 20 home runs and 36 doubles were nice, but it was the 107 walks and 18.7 percent walk rate that showed how advanced a hitter he could be.
It turned out to not be a fluke, as Bird has posted double-digit walk percentages every step of the ladder, while continuing to make solid contact. He had only played 34 games above Double-A when he was called upon to replace an injured Tex in the bigs, and he did well. He hit an uncharacteristic .261, but his left handed swing played nicely not only in Yankees Stadium (where he hit five home runs) but on the road (where he hit six).
Unfortunately, he was playing on a bum shoulder and the ensuing surgery would force him out all of 2016. Now he is rehabbing with the Scottsdale Scorpions. This is not his first taste of the Arizona Fall League, however. Last time he was there was as a prospect, not on rehab. That fall, he took home the 2014 Most Valuable Prospect honors slashing .313/.391/.556 with six home runs and six doubles in just 115 plate appearances.
Now, he is finding his stroke again. Thursday evening saw him hit his first home run of the fall. He is now 9-for-37 (just .243) but his swing looks good. It is also important to note that five of his nine hits have gone for extra bases, including Thursday’s homer. In typical Bird Dog fashion, he has walked more (eight times) than he has struck out (seven times).
Trading away their bullpen and All Star right fielder began the rebuild process in New York. Gary Sanchez put it in motion. A lineup featuring Bird and Sanchez back-to-back is something Yankees fans have been waiting a long time to see. It appears that they are closer than ever to seeing it happen.