TAMPA - Competition aside, even a chosen one would not find it easy to be the Yankees' starting first baseman in 2017; like Didi Gregorius did in succeeding Derek Jeter two years ago, whoever wins the first base job will likely have some unfair extra scrutiny in succeeding the retired Mark Teixeira.
Greg Bird may be the favorite to win that job thanks to his performance back in 205, but as Bird entered spring, the thought of having to succeed a Yankees icon wasn't even in his mindset.
"I don't look at it like that; I'm just playing first base and trying to win a job right now," Bird said. "I learned a lot from him, and I'll definitely cherish that experience, but I'm not thinking I'm replacing anybody. I'm just playing baseball."
For Gregorius, the scrutiny of being Jeter's successor surely wasn't helped by the fact that he came from outside the organization. Bird, however, is a homegrown Yankee and somewhat "succeeded" Teixeira when Tex was hurt at the end of 2015, and both of those experiences have helped the 24-year-old stay grounded - not that he wasn't already.
"I started to realize the last couple of years that no matter where you are, no matter the level or how big the stadium is or how many people are there, it's still just a game," Bird said. "You're in a different place but it's the same stuff that goes on every day, and that eases my mind. I like to keep things simple, so how I look at it is that it's just baseball."
One thing Gregorius didn't really have, however, was competition when he came to the Yankees in 2015. There were thoughts originally that Brendan Ryan might play more by spelling Didi against lefties, but he was the shortstop for the most part until he sank or swam.
Even with Tyler Austin's injury, Bird still does have some "competition," albeit perhaps maybe more of a backup plan, in Chris Carter - but no matter who else might work their way into the mix, having to win the job per se is not something Bird worries about, either.
"I don't look at it like that; this is the Major Leagues, and there's always guys below you that want your job, and I still have to put in the work and prove to them that I can play again," he said. "There's always competition, so the level doesn't really motivate me any more or less. I just have to take care of myself and get ready for my season."
And even if Carter does end up winning the full-time first base job this spring, the worst-case scenario for Bird's immediate career can still be a great learning experience for him.
"I look at (Carter) as another guy that's great for our team, and another guy I can learn from."