Greg Bird is hopeful he can start the regular season healthy as he looks to win the starting first baseman job he lost to Luke Voit last year.
Based on his first two at-bats in a simulated game, he feels ready.
Bird homered off Masahiro Tanaka and singled off James Paxton on Thursday as he competes for a starting role on New York's 25-man roster.
"It's a step in the right direction," Bird said, according to Newsday's Erik Boland. "I just want to play. I know I have to play, we can talk all day, but I have to play, so that's one step closer to playing at game speed."
Bird, 26, has only appeared in 176 games since debuting in 2015. He missed the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury and appeared in just 48 games in 2017 due to ankle surgery.
He underwent ankle surgery again before the start of last season and missed most of the first two months of the season, but he struggled to find consistency at the plate, as he slashed .199/.286/.386 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs in 82 games.
He had a 20-game stretch in August when he went 7-for-71 (a .099 batting average) with two home runs and eight RBIs.
It was at that point when the Yankees turned to Voit, a midseason acquisition from the Cardinals. And the 28-year-old Voit flourished, slashing .351/.426/.763 with 14 home runs and 31 RBIs in a 32-game stretch from Aug. 24 to the end of the regular season.
Not only did Voit win the starting job from Bird in the regular season, but he also started all five playoff games.
"My goal is to win the job and become the starting first baseman of the New York Yankees," Voit said earlier this week, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman. "That is nothing against Greg. I want to be on this team and I want to help them win [championship] No. 28."
Bird feels the same way. He said he feels healthy and added about 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason to build more power.
"Not super intentional, I ate and worked out,'' Bird said. "After the New Year, I started lifting. If I am heavier and can move, I know I am in a good place. ... I was able to start over and get to where I needed to be, and work from the ground up. I didn't change anything. I just got back to where I needed to be."
Added manager Aaron Boone: "The one thing about Greg, even last year when he was struggling at its most, he controls the strike zone. His first at-bats today, that was apparent and then we saw him impact the ball as well."