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Yankees injured 1B Greg Bird defends desire to return to lineup

NEW YORK -- Yankees injured first baseman Greg Bird defended himself Friday against a published report that questioned his desire to come back from his ankle injury.

"I want to play," said Bird, who has been limited to 19 games this year. "I've always wanted to play since I can remember. I love baseball. For me, I'm doing everything I can to come back. I love it and I want to be playing with these guys. I would hope people see it."

The newspaper report quoted a "Yankee insider" saying, "You really wonder what's with this guy. You'd think with Judge and Sanchez, the guys he came through the system with, doing so well up here he'd want to be a part of this. Apparently not."

Bird missed all of 2016 after season-ending shoulder surgery. He was the best hitter on the Yankees during spring training, batting .451 and homering a Grapefruit League-best eight times. During the final days of spring, he fouled a ball off his right ankle but continued to play into the regular season. He batted just .100 in 60 at-bats before going on the disabled list with a bone bruise.

The Yankees have said MRIs and X-rays have shown nothing still wrong with him, but Bird has said he has not felt right on rehab assignments.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi backed his player, saying Bird has done everything to try to come back and that only a player can really assess himself. Girardi said that when he was a player, he would have been unhappy if a team "insider" questioned his desire.

"I don't think I would be too happy about it," Girardi said. "Because I think only the players know. I would be a little upset about someone questioning my desire and my integrity."

Bird, 24, is scheduled to see another doctor on Monday. At that point, he will have a new plan. He recently had a cortisone shot that did not improve how he felt.

"Not being out there annoys me, for sure," Bird said. "I have to be healthy and I have to be able to do what I need to do. This has been a weird one, I know. That's frustrating, mainly for me."

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