Blue Jays release infielder Greg Bird from minor-league deal

Toronto Blue Jays' Greg Bird reacts after striking out during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Friday, April 1, 2022, in Bradenton, Fla. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

LAKELAND, Fla. – Despite making a strong push for a spot on the Toronto Blue Jays’ bench, Greg Bird has been released by the team, industry sources tell Sportsnet.

Bird exercised an out clause in his contract after learning that he wouldn’t be added to the team’s 40-man roster, making him a free agent.

There’s still a chance Bird could re-sign with the Blue Jays, as he’s believed to have enjoyed his brief time with the organization. At the same time, other organizations are likely to have interest in the 29-year-old after a strong spring in which he hit two home runs and posted a .958 OPS in 11 games.

Bird last played in the major leagues with the 2019 Yankees, but he’s fully healthy now and appealed to the Blue Jays because he offered power from the left side of the plate. The acquisition of catcher Zack Collins for Reese McGuire changed the complexion of the team’s bench, though, and may have impacted the approach with Bird.

The 27-year-old Collins has a .917 OPS with 22 home runs in 405 career plate appearances at triple-A along with intriguing underlying numbers at the big-league level. His OPS is just .645 in 114 career big-league games, but the Blue Jays believe he’s capable of more. Like Bird, he’s a left-handed hitter who would offer power off the bench.

Defensively, the Blue Jays can now use Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as backups to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base, but third base coach Luis Rivera says he believes Guerrero Jr.’s on his way to continued improvement as a defender.

“He continues to get better,” Rivera said in a recent interview. “He’s in great shape. He’s a year into it now playing first base. He’s more confident playing the position, more comfortable. I think sooner than later he’s going to be one of the better first basemen defensively also.”

Teams will begin the season with 28 roster spots, up from the standard 26, and the Blue Jays are expected to use that flexibility to carry an oversized bullpen that could include 10 relievers. The Blue Jays continue evaluating the candidates for the final few spots in their bullpen as spring training comes to an end.

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