The results don’t match the optimism. The numbers haven’t followed the quality at-bats.
But the Yankees and Greg Bird believe he’s inching closer to a scalding stretch, that this four-game hitting streak is a sign of what is to come for the young first baseman.
“I feel like he’s pretty close to being really locked in,” manager Aaron Boone said Sunday after Bird went 1-for-4 in the Yankees’ 3-1 loss to the Rays at the Stadium.
Bird, who missed the season’s first 48 games after undergoing right ankle surgery to remove a bone spur, echoed his manager’s optimistic take, saying he feels “good” at the plate, that he is close to doing major damage. Early on, Bird felt he wasn’t getting his best swing off nearly enough. But lately, he sees an improvement there. The results just haven’t come yet. He’s produced an underwhelming .215/.282/.462 slash line with three home runs, five RBIs and a .743 OPS in 65 at-bats.
“I’m happy where I’m at right now, but there’s room to get better for sure,” he said. “Get better, stay the course and turn this thing around.”
While he has felt healthy for a while, missing so much time certainly was a setback. His rhythm hasn’t been quite right. He’s missed pitches he would ordinarily crush. It happened last year as well upon returning from ankle surgery. Bird exploded in the playoffs after struggling in September.
“I try to figure it out all the time. It’s just the ups and downs,” he said. “You want to be consistent in this game. I just feel like when you’re coming back like that, there’s more obstacles.”
More than the overall lack of production in a limited number of at-bats, Bird has been bothered by his problems in the clutch. He has just one hit in 18 at-bats with men on base, is 0-for-5 with the bases loaded, and 1-for-15 with men in scoring position.
“There’s been some situations where I’ve come up in big spots with guys on, great at-bats in front of me, and I just haven’t been able to get it done,” he said. “That frustrates me more than anything.”
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