The former major league first baseman and current ESPN analyst told The Michael Kay Show on Thursday that it’s still too early to judge the slumping Bird, who’s hitting a scant .191 this season.
“I’ve always thought that in a normal season when a guy starts in April, you need to give him 100, maybe even 150 at-bats to really see where he is. Birdy’s not even there yet,” Teixeira said. “So, he’s proven that he’s got talent. We think he’s healthy, the way he’s moving around. So based on that, he’s got 89 at-bats, give him some more weeks… This guy is so important to the Yankees because, let’s be honest, him at his best is better than Neil Walker or Tyler Austin at his best.
“So, unless the Yankees make some huge trade at the deadline for a first baseman — which they’re not going to do — Birdy is the best option for a September, October run for the Yankees and they need to get him going.”
Bird, who missed all of April and nearly all of May while recovering from right ankle surgery, has struggled to find consistency at the plate. The 25-year-old’s three home runs and six RBI since May 26 are indicative of that, as is his measly .690 OPS and 33-percent strikeout rate.
“I think he’s healthy,’’ Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone recently told the New York Post. “The injury is fixed. The biggest thing is he had surgery and just like a guy has arm surgery and you’re fine and good to go, I think there are still things to work through. I think that’s fair and I think he probably is, in a way, working through and building that stamina, if you will, that allows you to repeat things and get back to the hitter we know he is.
“Even though he hasn’t impacted the ball yet like we know he can… I still feel there are signs that would suggest he’s close enough… Hopefully as he builds up his strength and stamina, it starts to turn into more impactful swings on a nightly basis.”
Teixeira believes it’s a challenge for Bird to rediscover himself when his teammates are so far ahead in their season progression.
“I’m seeing a guy who’s in-between pitches right now. And that’s what happens when you’re hurt for two months to start the season,” Teixeira told The Michael Kay Show. “You’re trying to play catch-up. You look up at the scoreboard right now and your numbers aren’t even close to where you want them to be… And you start pressing. So, he’s absolutely pressing, he’s in-between on some pitches.”
Bird might not have a chance to break out this weekend either, based on the Yankees’ upcoming series. The Boston Red Sox plan to start three left-handers — Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, and David Price — in the Bronx, which means Bird could be on the bench for one or two games.
With that in mind, the Yankees will likely recall a right-handed batter on Friday. The most intriguing minor league option would be infielder Brandon Drury, who’s excelled with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year. The 25-year-old was the Yankees’ Opening Day third baseman, but he landed on the disabled list on April 7 with migraines and blurred vision.
On May 15, Drury was optioned to Triple-A after finishing a minor league rehab stint. And since then, he’s slashed .315/.419/.494 with five home runs and 28 RBI in 47 games (168 at-bats). Plus, he was recently announced as one of the RailRiders’ representatives in the International League All-Star Game.
“I don’t belong [in Triple-A] at all,” Drury recent told The Athletic. “You come to that point where you just have to accept it. Obviously, I don’t want to accept it. I need to be back in the big leagues quickly. I feel like I belong there and I can help the team win. At the same time, I need to do what I can do now to just get better every day. That’s what I can do right now. But there’s no doubt about it: I belong there and that’s where I need to be.”
Drury has also dabbled at first base, and once the Yankees are confident that he is comfortable at the new position, his versatility could prompt a big league promotion and leave utility infielder Neil Walker as the odd-man out. Based on Walker’s poor numbers, it wouldn’t be that difficult of a decision.
But Teixeira insists the Yankees should remain patient with Bird and stay the course.
“I still think you platoon until you get Birdy hot,” Teixeira said. “In two or three weeks, if Greg Bird is still hitting under .200 and really not getting the job done, yeah, at the end of the day, you’ve got to win ball games. And especially if you’re facing really tough lefties, maybe you bring in Drury to get the job done. But, again, against the Houston Astros in the ALCS, I want Greg Bird hitting in the middle of the lineup against those tough right-handed pitchers.”