Bird Carrying It Over

Greg Bird finished his 2014 in strong fashion, clubbing seven home runs in his 27-game trial with Double-A Trenton and posting a .937 OPS. He's carried it over into a strong start to his Arizona Fall League season with the Scottsdale Scorpions by hitting in ten straight games and clubbing his fourth home of their young season already on Monday, and he says he wants to finish strong.

He missed the first five weeks of the season while dealing with a minor back issue but wound up hitting a combined .271 with 30 doubles and 14 home runs between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2014.

"Oh really good, I thought it was a really solid year," he said. "Obviously I missed April but after that, once I got going and got settled in, I thought it was a successful year."

His aforementioned strong finish to the year allowed him to be selected to play in the highly regarded Arizona Fall League this offseason and it wasn't an honor he took too lightly.

"I was real excited," he said when he learned of his AFL assignment. "It's something that you always heard about. Growing up you just hear about all of the guys that have played here and I just think it's an honor to come here and represent the Yankees, and meet some new guys. It's been really fun so far."

It's easier to have fun when you're having success and so far nobody is having as much of it as Bird has through the first couple of weeks. Not only has he strung together a ten-game hit streak to open the Arizona Fall League, but he's hitting .349 with a ridiculous 1.089 OPS after clubbing his fourth home run on Monday.

For Bird he simply just picked up right where he left off at season's end.

"I think I was definitely in a good place at the end of the year," he said prior to Monday's game. "I just think from year to year you learn a lot and I think I just carried that all into this [Arizona Fall League season], and I think it's going to be a fun few weeks here.

"I'm really looking forward to it. It's already been two [weeks] and it's been a blast. I'm just enjoying it."

For Bird his ascension has just culminated from years of little learning lessons, not the least of which has been how to become a more consistent ball player.

"I just think how to be consistent on a day to day basis. I think you learn how to do that every year but this year I think I did a better job. When I look back and compare this year to last year I was more consistent everyday.

"I think that's the key and I'm going to keep getting better at that. There's a lot of room for me to grow there. I think from a day to day basis I was more consistent."

Helping him become more consistent has been a subtle change in his approach at the plate. Naturally an extremely patient hitter, he began becoming a bit more aggressive earlier in counts this past season to attack better pitches that he could drive and it's an approach he hopes to continue going forward.

"It's not something that I try to force but it is something that I think I've become more comfortable with," he said. "I am going to keep working on it out here but for me it's just about getting a good pitch to hit whether it's early in the count or late in the count. I think it's a good thing and I think I came a long ways with it this year."

Still, as good as he has been offensively for the better part of two years now, the former catcher still lists getting better defensively at first base as his main developmental mantra out in Arizona.

"Just keep working on my defense," he listed as his main goal this AFL season. "I think there's a lot room for me to get better there and I think it just comes with the work you put into it.

"It's go back to what I learned this year, how to become even more of a complete player. That's the ultimate goal, to be a well-rounded baseball player."

He is doing exactly that and has thus begun to open some eyes with the national pundits, especially with his strong start in the Arizona Fall League. For Bird, however, that aspect doesn't mean much to him.

"It doesn't really matter to me because the people I work for and play for notice, and my teammates notice," he said of the new national attention. "I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it.

"I just go out there, try to get better, do my job, and the ultimate goal is for the Yankees to win and that's what I want to be a part of. The people who are important to me, they notice, and that's what matters to me."

He still has a few more weeks remaining in the Arizona Fall League and upon its completion Bird plans to get some much needed rest and, just like last offseason, spend the majority of his time getting ready for the next season.

"For me it's kind of the same every year. You learn each year little tricks how to do it but to get strong and to get rested [too]. Obviously everyone wants to get in better shape and get strong for next year, but you've also got to get rested. You have to find the happy medium there.

"For me it's just going to be working out, going to Spring Training in great shape, and hit the ground running next year. You don't want to peak in spring but when the season hits you want to roll around and get ready to go."

He's been on a roll for the better part of five months now and it is important for him to continue this carryover effect and finish his strong start to the Arizona Fall League.

"I just think it's important to go into the offseason on a good note. I think this is also a huge opportunity to get used to playing in October and November because I think that's the ultimate goal for all of us. It should be [anyway]. It is for me.

"It's a great test to maintain that focus and that drive late in the year because like I said, ultimately that's where we want to be," he concluded.


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