TAMPA, FL - Coming back from the offseason, no one was more prepared to hit Spring Training than…
Bird Primed To Soar In Second Half
Pedrique's comments couldn't be more accurate. In person, Bird emanates a very affable demeanor and carries himself with the aura of a professional. It appears that his professional attitude translates to his play on the diamond as well.
"He's a very smart hitter," Pedrique added. "He knows his strike zone real well, [he's] very disciplined at the plate, and he uses the whole field."
Last year with Charleston, Bird dazzled many with his ability to draw walks and carve out smart at-bats. Using this approach, Bird finished with a spectacular statline of .288/20 HR/107 BB, earning a spot as a Class A all-star.
This season, the pressure was on for Bird to duplicate his performance from last year when he arrived in Tampa.
"I think with every level the expectations just get higher and higher," Bird said.
Due to his aforementioned back injury, however, Bird's season in the Sunshine State began slower than expected. Though his tenacious mindset was unchanged, his physical limitations barred him from performing to his full potential.
"There's been ups and downs but I think that was expected if I got a late start to the season. But that's what it's all about, battling the ups and downs and getting through it," he said.
Regardless, Pedrique was unconcerned with the injury and believes Bird will excel during the second half of the season.
"Any time a player gets hurt and then he's back on the roster it takes a while for him to feel comfortable," Pedrique said. "Last year [Bird] was phenomenal.
"Right now we can't compare his numbers to last year because he doesn't have enough at-bats like he did last year. I'm sure he'll get plenty of at-bats to show what kind of hitter he is."
Hitting coach PJ Pilittere agreed with Pedrique's sentiments, noting that Bird's numbers are right where he wants them to be.
"I think it's too early to say his numbers aren't there. He hit a hot streak this past week and I think he's up to hitting [.284]. In my opinion, he's right where I'd like him to be," Pilittere remarked.
If Bird's recent string of games show us anything, it's that he's going to explode at any minute. In his last ten games Bird has been hitting at a torrid pace, hitting a dynamic .429 with seven doubles, four runs batted in, and drawing seven walks.
"I [now] have the consistency I've been looking for throughout the season," Bird said. "Now I feel like I've finally found where I want to be. So now I just have to keep that going."
Pedrique is eager to see where that consistency can take him, especially knowing his tendencies as a player.
"He's close," Pedrique said when asked if Bird was nearing supernova. "Anytime you see Bird with this type of swing, starting to drive the ball into left centerfield and the gap, he's coming. You better watch out, because when this kid get's hot he puts up good numbers."
For Bird, the next step going forward is carving out his identity as a player. Now that he knows what he's capable of, it's a matter of perfecting his craft.
"So far I think I've really improved at first base this year; that was a really big goal for me. Offensively I think it's just figuring out what kind of hitter I want to be and adjusting to where I'm at," he said.
On offense, Bird is a nightmare for opposing pitchers as he is incredibly skilled at working the strike zone. He has the innate ability to stay inside the ball by using a short, compact type swing, which allows him an added boost on his power.
Aside from that, Bird is also a lefty and has the ability to pull the ball where he wants it. If Bird keeps progressing at the rate he is now, we could very well see him smashing home runs over the short right field wall at Yankee Stadium in a few years.
For now, though, Bird is focused on helping his current club succeed. According to Pilittere, Bird's mindset has remained consistent from last year.
"For him, his approach really hasn't changed much, as far as getting a good pitch -- which he does a really good job of -- staying tight with his swing, and using his legs to drive the ball," Pilittere said. "He's a smart hitter and he goes off of what he feels, which is a good thing."
If Greg Bird continues to bounce back and dominate for the rest of the season, one thing is for sure; the summer heat won't be hottest thing in Florida.
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