How year away from baseball changed Yankees’ Greg Bird – New York Post

TAMPA — This is why Greg Bird will not be stopped.

The biggest setback in Bird’s career has become his biggest strength.

“The things I learned over last summer, baseball and life is all experiences,’’ Bird told The Post on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field about coming back from a torn right shoulder labrum. “I’ve never really wanted to take a year off from baseball. But not to be able to really do baseball, and much else, so early in my career was extremely difficult for me.

“I had a hard time sometimes — even talking.

“You don’t always get what you want,’’ Bird said.

Sometimes, well, you might find you get what you need.

Does Bird feel he became a better ballplayer as a result of going through shoulder surgery and intensive rehab?

“I do,’’ he said. “I told my mom that the other day, I said, ‘I didn’t play at all, and everybody talks about at-bats, but I feel better than I was before. Physically and mentally.’ ”

There’s more.

“And you become a better person,’’ said Bird, who is already rock solid at the age of 24 and is one of the young Yankees leaders, part of the new core four in the making. “If you handle it the right way and get something out of it.’’

And the magic came back in his swing just this week. Bird had been dealing with this shoulder injury since May 2015.

“In early 2015, I was trying to hit the way I hit and I couldn’t,’’ he said. “I’m a big feel guy and I couldn’t feel what I wanted to feel. I tried different bats and different things.’’

Bird wasn’t quite right even though he came up to the Yankees in mid-August and produced, batting .261 with nine doubles and 11 home runs over 46 games, leading the club in home runs over that span.

His surgery took place on Feb. 2, 2016. He rehabbed to regain strength, but he had to regain the lost feel of his swing. It wasn’t there during his stint in the Arizona Fall League.

“But four or five days ago, I got in the cage and got the work in that I wanted to get in and the feel was back,’’ Bird said. “I found what I was looking for so long. The shoulder is stable and strong and the feel in my swing is back. It was just so cool to me, I don’t know what else to say, it’s really awesome to feel that way again.’’

Witness his three home runs, including a booming one in his last game Thursday night. No player, heading into Friday, had hit more home runs this spring.

There is life again in his sweet left-handed swing. He has learned the greatest baseball lesson of all.

“I learned patience and staying within the day, that’s a big lesson to learn in baseball,’’ Bird said. “It’s a lesson in a lot of different things, level-headedness, modesty, it can change quickly.

“I don’t recommend it to anyone, but this is really going to serve me well going forward as far as my career. It was a crash course in not being able to do it so suddenly.’’

Sitting out the 2016 season was so difficult and it hit him hard that last day of spring training.

“They were all leaving and I wasn’t,’’ he said. “I wanted to be so bad.’’

Now there is a freshness to life.

“I can go home at night and I can live my life, I wake up in morning and I can go to the field knowing that I can do what I need to do and want to do that day so that is just like a weight off my shoulders and a really cool one,’’ Bird said.

“Normal wasn’t normal for a long time. This is just awesome. Everybody asks me about results, but the fact that I can go home and wake up in the morning and do the things I do is like hallelujah to me because I didn’t have it.’’

Greg Bird has it all going now.


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