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Yankees’ Greg Bird talks Giancarlo Stanton trade, expectations for 2018

 

Like many major leaguers, Greg Bird has the offseason itch.

The Yankees’ 25-year-old first baseman, who’s spending the winter in his home state of Colorado, spoke about the upcoming season with YES Network’s Jack Curry on Monday night’s Yankees Hot Stove television program.

Here are some highlights from the eight-minute interview:

Bird approves the Yankees’ trade for Giancarlo Stanton

The biggest story that came out of baseball’s winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. last week was the Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton in a blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins. In 2017, the 28-year-old National League MVP led the majors with 59 home runs and 132 RBI.

“Obviously, really excited,” Bird said of playing with Stanton. “A player who’s a lot of fun to watch on both sides of the ball and who can hit the ball out of any ballpark. So, we got a quality player and seems like a quality guy. It’s an exciting time to be a Yankee fan.” 

Although batting orders haven’t been set, Bird is intrigued by the possibility of hitting in between both Stanton and sophomore slugger Aaron Judge, who combined for 111 homers last season.

“There’s not a lot of holes,” Bird said of the Yankees’ lineup, which hit a league-best 241 homers in 2017. “There wasn’t last year, then obviously picking up Giancarlo, that makes it even tougher. Our job is to make [opposing pitchers’] life hard and I think we’ll be able to do that. But, we’ve got to go out and perform. We understand that, but it’s going to be fun.”

Bird’s also on board with the hiring of Aaron Boone

A week before the Stanton news broke, the Yankees formally introduced Aaron Boone as the club’s next manager. The 44-year-old will succeed Joe Girardi (2008-17), who managed the franchise to a World Series championship in 2009 and 10 consecutive winning seasons.

“I’m really excited, personally,” Bird said of Boone. “I’ve talked to some of the guys on the team and I think they’re excited, too. We’ve just got to get to camp and then feel it out and get going. That’s the biggest thing. Get playing, get working, get around each other and build that relationship. But definitely looking forward to it.”

To say the least, 2017 was one topsy-turvy year

In 23 spring training games last March, Bird’s performances at the plate were a sight for sore eyes. After missing the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury, Bird hit .451 with eight homers, seven doubles, 12 walks, and 15 RBI in 51 Grapefruit League at-bats. The Yankees’ expectations of him being an influential piece in the lineup seemed pragmatic, but, things quickly took a turn for the worse.

In April, Bird hit a measly .107 with 21 strikeouts, and on May 2, he landed on the disabled list with a lingering ankle injury. Four months later, on Aug. 26, Bird returned to action, and finished the season with a .190 average (nine homers, 28 RBI in 48 games).

However, Bird’s play in the postseason was encouraging. In 13 playoff games against the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros, he hit three homers and drove in six runs.

“Dealing with an injury sucks,” Bird said. “Mentally, I would say it’s more challenging than physically a lot of times with the injury thing. But I’m glad it’s behind me and I enjoyed that postseason just like everybody did, and it was unbelievable.

“And it leaves that taste in your mouth that you want more, so I’m looking forward to getting back down there [to Tampa, Fla.] and getting to work and just get rolling again.”

Bird believes in the Yankees’ talent, but also their chemistry

With the addition of Stanton — which has revived the “Evil Empire” — the Yankees are currently favorites (5-to-1) to win the 2018 Fall Classic, according to Bovada.lv. Following New York are both the defending champion Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, listed at 6-to-1.

What made 2017 so unique for the Yankees was their success with a pristine blend of young stars and veteran leaders, and Bird trusts the group of players returning to the clubhouse in 2018.

“We had such a good group last year,” Bird said. “I felt like everyone enjoyed being around each other every day whether it was on the field or off the field or at the hotel and going out to dinner and stuff like that. Those are the things that I always appreciate and look forward to. Obviously, on the field is special and the most important part, but those little things off the field … that’s fun stuff.

“I can’t wait. I have to tone down the anxiety sometimes and just kind of pace myself or else I get too worked up and excited to go. That’s where I’m at right now.”

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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