FORT MYERS, Fla. — Not too long ago, John Farrell oversaw a Red Sox team at JetBlue Park that was waiting anxiously for the future.
On Tuesday, he looked across the field at the Yankees and saw some similarities.
“There’s a growing list of young players maybe similar to where we were two or three years ago,” the Boston manager said before the Yankees won 5-4 in a split-squad game.
Farrell was referring, in part, to the development of current Red Sox like Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts and while the Yankees are waiting on Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres, they know Greg Bird will have to be a significant part of wherever they go — in 2017 and down the road.
Bird gave the Yankees another reason to believe he could be able to put last season’s nightmare behind him, a year lost to shoulder surgery and rehab. He hit his first two homers of the spring, one to right off right-hander Kyle Kendrick in the first then another to left-center off southpaw Edgar Olmos in the sixth.
“That’s what you want to see,” manager manager Joe Girardi said of Bird’s performance. “We understand he had a year off, basically. He’s had good at-bats the last two days.”
Bird now has four extra-base hits in the past two days and reported no issues from playing on consecutive days. Not surprisingly, Bird had no complaints after being sidelined by a torn labrum.
“It’s cool to be back with the guys. It just feels like baseball,” Bird said. “It’s awesome.”
And having spent much of 2016 rehabbing at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa rehabbing then playing in the Arizona Fall League, Bird has become familiar with some of the prospects that could come up behind him.
“At this point, it’s just having fun playing again with these young guys, my friends I’ve played with and the younger guys I’ve gotten to know,” Bird said. “It’s special right now for me.
That development has meant a lot to Girardi, who wanted to see how Bird was able to bounce back and has been pleased to see he has been able to recover.
If Bird is able to keep this up, any concerns about his ability to take over Mark Teixeira’s job on a permanent basis will disappear. He showed a glimpse of what he could do when he hit 11 homers in 46 games during Teixeira’s injury absence in 2015.
Those aren’t Gary Sanchez numbers, but the Yankees will take them, especially since he homered just once in 65 at-bats in Arizona.
The next step will be keeping it up over an entire spring — and season — then some of the other prospects following suit.
“When you have young kids, big prospects, you want them to mature as quick as possible and make a huge impact, and that’s what’s happened over here [with the Red Sox],” Girardi said. “You look what Bradley, Betts have done and [Andrew] Benintendi next. That’s what you want in your guys.”
It isn’t often a team comes up with as many as the Red Sox have in recent years.
“Sometimes things seem to come in waves,” Girardi said. “I don’t know why.”
The Yankees will find out soon enough if they will be able to follow Boston’s model to an AL East title at some point. But the past two days were enough for Bird to feel hopeful.
“This was a long time coming,” Bird said.
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