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Greg Bird has learned not to dwell on the injuries that have hijacked his baseball career.
“There has been an evolution for me,” he said Friday from his home in Tampa, Fla. “I used to get caught up in thinking about it, and believe me, it is very easy to get caught up in that. But that just takes you down a bad path.
“Now, I look at it as another challenge of getting back. It’s never easy going through that stuff, but it makes you a better person, and in turn, makes you a better player.”
Bird, a standout first baseman and catcher at Grandview High School, signed a minor league deal with the Rockies on Thursday. At 28, he’ll get a chance to make the big-league team if he can prove himself at first base during spring training.
“I think it’s a good fit, but to be quite honest, there wasn’t a lot of picking going on at my end,” the left-handed-hitting Bird said. “The Rockies gave me a good opportunity but I know I’m in a situation where I have to prove that I can play.”
Right-handed-hitting Josh Fuentes, who bumped the now-retired Daniel Murphy from the lineup late last season, sits atop the depth chart at first. Non-roster invitee Connor Joe, veteran Ian Desmond (though primarily a left fielder) and prospect Colten Welker will compete with Bird for playing time in Cactus League games.
Bird was selected out of Grandview by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. He debuted with the Yankees in 2015 and took over the starting job at first after veteran Mark Teixeira fractured his right shin. Bird finished 2015 with a .261 average, .343 on-base percentage, 11 home runs and nine doubles in 46 games. He was tagged as one of the “Baby Bombers.”
Then came multiple injuries and the reputation that comes along with them.
A right shoulder injury that required surgery to repair his labrum cost Bird the entire 2016 season. A right foot injury in 2017, a right ankle bone spur in ’18 and a left plantar fascia tear in ’19 limited him to 140 games over three seasons with the Yankees, resulting in a meager line of a .194 batting average, 21 home runs and 61 RBIs.
Still, mixed in with the injuries were tantalizing flashes of talent and power. In the 2017 postseason, his solo homer off Cleveland’s Andrew Miller accounted for the only run in Game 3 of the American League division series, propelling the Yankees from a 2-0 deficit and into the ALCS, where two more Bird homers helped push the eventual champion Houston Astros to seven games.
After leaving the Yankees organization, Bird became a free agent and began the 2020 season with Texas, but he didn’t appear in any games because of a calf injury. He signed with Philadelphia in September, but he could not play because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Now comes a chance to impress the hometown Rockies.
“This offseason was great,” he said. “I’m in great shape and I like where I’m at, physically and mentally. I’m just excited to get out there and play some ball.”