Now healthy, Greg Bird is ready to re-prove himself in 2017
"I've never taken a year off from baseball, so it was new and uh completely different," Bird said. "Different than what I expected, I'd say, but I'm through it now, and now's the fun part."
That fun part actually began last October, when Bird was able to return for the Arizona Fall League schedule; he wasn't cleared to throw at the beginning, but he did get 65 at-bats to knock the rust off at the plate, and finally, at the end, he was able to start throwing and once again feel "normal."
"When I threw at the end of Arizona, I proved to myself there that I could, I guess, if you want to say it like that, and right now it feels normal," Bird said. "I'm still taking it easy and pacing myself as far as how much I throw when, but everything feels great right now. I feel right where I need to be."
Great was also how Bird termed his trip to Arizona last fall as a whole, even if it came for a different reason than the trip he made back when he was just a prospect.
"Oh, it was great; it was a little different than the last time I was there," he laughed, "but it was great to just play again, and to be around some of our younger guys and pass on what I've learned to them."
As it stood coming out of Arizona, Bird was seemingly the favorite in a competition to determine who will be the Yankees' next starting first baseman. Competition has come and gone this spring - the Yankees signed Chris Carter in late-February, but then lost previous competitor Tyler Austin to a broken foot - but no matter who he's up against, Bird is determined that he can quickly get back to the level that saw him hit those 11 home runs in 46 games in 2015.
"Yeah, I feel confident that I can get back there," he said. "I've got a lot of work that I still need to put in right now, but I'm right where I want to be at this point in spring. We've still got a while until the regular season, so it will be a process, but I'm confident with where I'm at and where I'll be."
And part of that process after a year off, he noted, is getting back into the routine he had to change after his surgery last February.
"I think really just finding that routine is going to be big for me this spring," he said. "I have to find it, and get back to doing what I have to do to play every day again. It was a long year after the surgery, and so getting back into that daily routine is going to be new again, but I'll figure it out, and it'll be fun."
In the end, of course, Bird knows it's all going to be worth it, and it's all going as well as he had hoped.
"I mean, that's why I had the surgery," Bird smiled. "The surgeon told me going into the fall, 'you feel good right now but wait until 12 months, or 15 months…just wait and see.' So far, he's been right and, and it's a big confidence boost for me."
And, no matter what his role may be in 2017, Bird is just excited to have one.
"It's exciting and a long time coming being here, and I just want to stay healthy, that's the main thing," he said. "I want to find a good routine, stay healthy, play at a high level, and have fun again. I put in the hard work last summer, and now it's just time to go out and play baseball again."