We must admit hearing about Greg Bird’s turn right labrum and today’s surgery, developments that will put him out for the 2016 season, brought a frown.
Not because this is a catastrophic turn of events for the Yankees – Bird, as Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Monday, is close to a finished product – but because of the type of team-oriented player the 23-year-old native of Aurora, Colo., is.
Certainly there is more pressure on Mark Teixeira to stay healthy in 2016. Certainly there is a void with Bird on the shelf if something happens to Tex. This, however, is not the time for the Yankees to run out and sign either an over-the-hill Justin Moreau or a Pedro Alvarez who makes every play at first base an adventure.
In an emergency at first base, if Dustin Ackley proves wanting as a backup at first base, certainly Alex Rodriguez or Carlos Beltran could step in. Both can actually catch the ball at first base, something Alvarez finds challenging,
Bird initially strained that labrum while playing for the Double-A Trenton Thunder last May. He got off to a bit of a slow start, which is nothing unusual, but began get it into gear before the injury. He returned strong, moving on to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the solid 46-game stint with the Yankees, in which he batted .261 (41-for0157) with 11 home runs, 31 RBIs and an .871 OPS.
If Tex stays healthy, and has a great season, all this will be moot. If he misses time, the Yankees will survive. First basemen who excel on defense have spoiled some fans. We covered World Series champions in the past whose rosters included power-hitting first-sackers where were officially termed “bodies” in the field.
Alvarez was an example of that on a Pittsburgh team that earned postseason berths the last three years, which is why he is looking for a team rather than returning to the Steel City.
Bird will recover. His biggest challenge, while sticking to his rehabilitation program, might be boredom. He jumped right into the rehab process after his injury last season, but he admitted after a month in the Yankees’ Tampa Complex after the season started, he felt paroled when he got back to Trenton.
“Tampa is a great place to be in Spring Training, not during the season,” said Bird. “You know why you there and what you have to do, and you are in the same boat as other guys, but it really isn’t fun.
“You want to be playing and you can’t. You are working to get better, but for me, personally, I couldn’t wait to get it over with.”
He’ll face more of that in 2016.
Doctors, last spring after an MRI, were satisfied rest had healed what was then a strained right labrum. Bird went on to have a superb season and did not complain of any shoulder pain until his Yankees exit physical at the end of the campaign. Discomfort persisted and a new MRI showed damage to the labrum, which apparently gave him issues all season.
The result is not what either the Yankees or Bird needed, but the team would be right to stand pat. If Tex goes down, the Yankees will deal with it.
Meanwhile, we wish Greg Bird as speedy a recovery as possible. He remains the Yankees’ first baseman of the future.