Sometimes a baseball season can hinge on one flick of the wrist. In Mark Teixeira’s case it was a painful one.
Teixeira’s hallmark had always been his durability. In his first nine seasons he had never played less than 132 games and had averaged 153 games played.
But his 2012 season with the Yankees was cut short with thumb and calf injuries that limited him to a career-low 123 games played. He started spring training determined to rebound with a productive 2014 campaign.
Unfortunately, while preparing for an exhibition game as part of the World Baseball Classic with Team USA in Arizona, Teixeira took a batting practice swing that sent pain reverberating through his right wrist. He immediately knew something was terribly wrong.
Instead of starting the season playing first base with the Yankees, he was fitted for a cast and given a choice in his rehabilitation: He could have surgery to repair a torn sheath in the wrist that would end his season or he could try a period of two months of rest to allow the wrist to heal.
Teixeira, 33, elected the latter, which was the smart move because if his wrist did not heal properly he could always have the surgery later and still be ready for the 2014 season.
As misfortune would have it during the Yankees’ most injury-filled season in franchise history, Teixeira finally had to admit the wrist was not healing.
Losing a productive hitter is one thing thing. But losing a Gold Glove-quality first baseman like Teixeira was devastating.
Teixeira played his first game on May 31 but it became obvious as the weeks wore on that the “pop” in his bat was just not there. The wrist was fine batting left-handed but it ached miserably when he batted right-handed.
Finally, on June 15, Teixeira was removed from the lineup in a game against the Los Angeles Angels and he never returned. Teixeira’s 2014 season ended after 15 games and only 53 at-bats in which he hit an awful .151 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.
His season was not much different from his fellow Yankee brethren as the club limped to the finish line with an 85-77 mark, tied with the Baltimore Orioles for third place in the American League East.
Well, how is Teixeira doing in his rehab after wrist surgery?
The latest word is pretty good. He has been out of his cast for some time and currently is working on exercises to give his wrist normal range of motion and he is taking only slow swings to loosen up the wrist without overtaxing it.
His schedule calls for working on strength and flexibility in December and by January he hopes to be taking full swings and hitting off a tee. In February, barring any setbacks, he hopes to be taking hacks off a pitching machine and by March he hopes to be taking live batting practice.
Teixeira plans to begin playing spring training games by the first week of March.
The veteran also said on the YES Network’s “Hot Stove” program that he will stop using a weighted bat and will cut down on the amount of swings he takes in preparing for games in order to take pressure off the wrist. Teixeira also might require more days off to rest his body and stay sharp for the entire season.
The Yankees signed Teixeira to a eight-year, $180-million free-agent contract in 2009. In his first three healthy seasons with the club, Teixeira has averaged 37 home runs and 114 RBIs. But in that time his batting averages have dipped from .292 in 2009, to .256 in 2010 to .248 in 2011.
While Teixeira briefly toyed with the idea of dropping his pull approach he has simply embraced the fact that he is paid to hit homers and produce runs and he is no longer too concerned about his average anymore.
Also during his first four seasons, Teixeira managed to make two All-Star teams, win a Silver Slugger award in 2009 and selected for three Gold Gloves (2009, 2010 and 2012).
For all the production Teixeira provides as a switch-hitter in the middle of the lineup, it is his defense that draws rave reviews from teammates and fans. The former third baseman simply has dynamic range, exceptional agility and a great pair of hands.
He can take away extra-base hits with ease and scoop throws in the dirt to save his fellow infielders errors. Though many fans believe Don Mattingly was the best fielding first baseman in Yankee history, Tex’s five Gold Gloves at least put him in the argument.
The Yankees missed Teixeira dearly last season.
They were forced to sign 37-year-old journeyman Lyle Overbay to fill in for Teixeira in the final week of spring training. Though Overbay could come close to Teixeira with his glove, he was a definite step down in power and in production.
Overbay hit .240 with just 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 142 games. Though Overbay handled right-handers by posting a .258 mark. He only was able to hit .190 and was woefully overmatched by lefties. Because the Yankees did not have a right-handed hitting option after they lost Kevin Youkilis to a recurrence of a nagging back injury on June 13, the Yankees were forced to use Overbay every day and they paid dearly for it.
The Yankees’ current roster lists veteran outfielder Vernon Wells as the backup at first base. But Wells has made only one start at the position in his career and that was last season with the Yankees.
The Yankees might consider re-signing corner infielder Mark Reynolds, who hit .238 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 36 games after the Yankees signed him as a free agent on July 19.
Reynolds, 30, made 24 starts at first and 14 at third base for the Yankees. He could become the starter at third base should Alex Rodriguez end up being suspended by Major League Baseball as part of the Biogenesis scandal. An arbitrator has heard the case but he is not expected to rule until December.
The Yankees also might have an interest in former Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young.
It does not appear the Yankees have much interest in free agent first basemen Kendrys Morales, Paul Konerko, Justin Morneau or Carlos Pena. They would cost top dollar to sign any of them and they would not play much behind Teixeira in any event.
There is not much help at first base in the minor leagues because the Yankees used journeyman Dan Johnson at first at Triple-A Scranton last season. Johnson did hit .250 with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs in 138 games but he is not much of a prospect at age 34.
Kyle Roller, 25, batted .253 with 17 home runs and 69 RBIs at Double-A Trenton but he is at least two years away from making an impact.
So the Yankees will definitely have look for corner infield support for both Rodriguez and Teixiera this winter.
Tex’s days of playing 158 games appear to be over and the Yankees do need to look at spelling him this season. He is coming off wrist surgery and that is a concern. But the fact Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays was able to come back after similar surgery in 2012 certainly bodes well for Teixiera.
As they say, the trick is all in the wrist and Teixeira plans on showing Yankee fans he is not through playing at a high level. Time is definitely on his side.
YANKEES 6, WHITE SOX 5
If Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants to have a conversation after the season with Mariano Rivera just to make sure he really wants to retire who could blame him. The 43-year-old future Hall-of Fame closer has shown no signs of his age or lost an of his effectiveness.
Rivera came with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday and “Mo’ed” down all four batters he faced for a rare four-out save to propel New York to a three-game sweep of Chicago in front of a paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 36,082.
The Yankees actually were cruising with a 6-1 lead behind CC Sabathia in the top of the eighth when Girardi pulled him with Alexei Ramirez on second and Paul Konerko on first after he singled with one out.
Little did Girardi and the Yankees realize that the usually reliable David Robertson would have a meltdown that allowed the White Sox to climb back into the game.
Avisail Gracia greeted Roberston with an RBI single to left to score Ramirez and, one out later, Dayan Viciedo drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.
Josh Phegley followed with a two-run single to left and Marcus Semien, who was making his major-league debut, ripped an RBI single up the middle to bring the Chisox to within a run of the Yankees and send Robertson to the dugout.
Rivera came on to strike out Alejandro De Aza looking to shut the rally down and he then pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 41st save in 46 opportunities this season.
Sabathia (13=11) pitched 7 1/3 string innings to run his career record against the White Sox to 19-4. He gave up three runs on five hits and four walks while he struck four in his longest outing since Aug. 7.
Other than the two runs, Sabathia was charged with in the eighth, he only gave up a single run in the first inning when Garcia stroked a two-out, opposite-field double to drive in Gordon Beckham, who had drawn a one-out walk.
The Yankees, however, tied it with two out in the bottom of the first when Robinson Cano blasted his 26th home run of the season to right-field off right-hander Erik Johnson, who was also making his major-league debut.
The Yankees added four runs in the fourth inning off Johnson (0-1) as Alex Rodriguez led off with a lined single to center and Ichiro Suzuki reached first when Johnson’s throw to first base pulled Jeff Keppinger off the bag for an error.
Lyle Overbay followed with an RBI single and, one out later, Brett Gardner laced a two-run triple off the wall in left-center. Cano then capped the inning by driving in his 91st run of the year by scoring Gardner on a sharp comebacker off Johnson that was scored as an infield single.
Johnson, 22, was charged with five runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks while he fanned one batter in six innings. That one batter was Suzuki, who struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the first inning.
The Yankees added what looked to be just another tack on run in the seventh inning off right-hander Daniel Webb, who was the third player for the White Sox who was making his major-league debut.
Derek Jeter drew a leadoff walk and Cano advanced him to third with a lined single to right for his third hit of the night.
Alfonso Soriano then scored Jeter with a sacrifice fly to deep right for his 91st RBI of the season and his 40th in just 37 games with the Yankees. That run actually ended up being the margin of victory for the Yankees, who managed a home sweep of the Chisox after they swept the Yankees in a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field a month ago.
With the victory the Yankees improved to 75-64 and they remain in third place in the American League East eight games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. However, they are just 2 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for a wild-card spot. The last-place White Sox fell to 56-82, assuring them a season below .500.
- Cano is red-hot at the plate at just the right time for the Yankees’ playoff push. He was 3-for-4 on Wednesday with a pair of singles, a home run, a run scored and two RBIs. Since Aug. 2, Cano is 42-for-117 (.359) with five home runs and 21 RBIs. Soriano is providing him with a lot of protection in the cleanup spot and he is getting better pitches to hit as a result.
- Gardner has also been on fire of late. He was 2-for-4 with a single, a triple, a run scored and two RBIs on the night. In his past nine games, Gardner is 12-for-35 (.343) with six doubles and a triple, eight runs scored and four RBIs. His triple on Wednesday was his eighth of the season, which is a career high.
- Sabathia actually pitched creditably after going through a stretch in which his ERA was an incredible 7.33 in his past nine starts. Sabathia has managed to win four his past five starts but he has been getting by with more run support than he received earlier in the season. The Yankees are hoping he can turn in a very good September to get the team into the playoffs.
- Robertson’s outing was very jarring because he was rocked for two runs on three hits and a walk in just one-third of an inning. Robertson had only given up one earned run over his past 29 1/3 innings covering 17 appearances since June 19. Considering his season ERA is still 1.88 after his outing on Wednesday I doubt Girardi will lose sleep over it.
- Suzuki was 0-for-4 and did allow Johnson to escape a bases-loaded jam in the first when he struck out on a pitch that actually bounced in the batter’s box at his feet. He did not get a ball out of the infield and he is just 1-for-9 in his past four games and is hitting just .182 in his past 10 games.
Girardi dropped a bombshell when he announced on Wednesday that right-hander Phil Hughes has been shifted from the starting rotation to the bullpen in favor of left-hander David Huff. Hughes, 27, is 4-13 with a 4.86 ERA in 26 starts this season. He has lost 11 of his past 13 decisions and he has a 6.12 ERA since August. Huff, 29, has compiled a 2-0 record with 1.13 ERA in 16 innings covering seven appearances with the Yankees, most of them in long relief. Huff is scheduled to pitch in Saturday’s game against the Red Sox as part of the four-game home weekend series. . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for August on Wednesday. Nova, 26, was 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his six starts and he is coming off his first major-league complete-game shutout in his last start against the Orioles on Saturday.
The Yankees’ hopes to win the A.L. East hinge on their four-game weekend series with the Red Sox that starts on Thursday.
Nova (8-4, 2.88 ERA) will be starting for the Yankees and he is the team’s hottest pitcher of late. Nova held the Orioles to three hits, walked one and struck out five batters in what was his most dominant start of the season. Nova is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in his career against the Bosox.
Nova will be opposed by right-hander Jake Peavy (3-1, 3.18 ERA). Peavy held the White Sox to two runs on five hits and a walk in seven innings to win his last start on Saturday. However, Peavy has had no luck against the Yankees. He is 0-4 with a 3.86 ERA lifetime against them.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 9, WHITE SOX1
They had to be wondering when – or even if – it was ever going to stop. What started out as a just a trickle became a torrent and there was nothing but dark angry clouds overhead.
I am not talking about the paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 40,125 that had to brave a one-hour and 53-minute rain delay and halted the game with one out in the top of the second inning. I am speaking about the Chicago White Sox during the Yankees’ eight-run bottom of the fourth inning as 13 batters came to the plate in a frame that took 32 minutes to play.
New York rode that eight-run explosion – the team’s largest run total of any inning this season – to a comfortable thrashing of last-place Chicago in a Labor Day matinee.
The Yankees began the inning with a 1-0 lead with which Derek Jeter had staked them on an RBI single following a leadoff double by Brett Gardner off left-hander Jose Quintana (7-5) in the bottom of the first.
Alex Rodriguez opened the fourth with a double off right-hander Dylan Axelrod, who replaced Quintana after the rain delay in the bottom of the second. Vernon Wells then reached on an infield single and Curtis Granderson drew a walk to load the bases.
Mark Reynolds opened the scoring with an infield single that scored Rodriguez. Austin Romine followed with a two-run single to center and Gardner stroked his second double of the day to score Reynolds and advance Romine to third.
Jeter scored Romine on an infield roller to third and, one out later, Alfonso Soriano laced an RBI double to left to score Gardner and advance Jeter to third.
After Rodriguez walked to reload the bases, White Sox manager Robin Ventura lifted Axelrod in favor of right-hander Jeff Petricka.
Wells grounded into what appeared to be a routine inning-ending double-play ball to Adam Dunn at first. However, Dunn’s toss to second base was behind shortstop Alexei Ramirez, which allowed Jeter and Soriano to score and left Rodriguez safe on the error at second.
That gave the Yankees a 9-0 lead over a White Sox team that had swept them in a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago from Aug. 5-7.
Veteran left-hander David Huff (2-0) relieved starter Phil Hughes after the rain delay with one out in the second inning and pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run baseball to gain credit for the victory.
Paul Konerko connected for a solo home run – his 10th of the season – with one out in the seventh to account for the only run for the Chisox.
Huff yielded five hits, walked none and fanned three batters to pick up his second victory with the Yankees.
Axelrod, on the other hand, was shelled for eight runs (six earned) on eight hits and two walks and struck one in 2 1/3 innings.
The victory improved the Yankees’ season record to 73-64 and they are eight games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in fourth place in the American League East. However, the Yankees are just three games back in the wild-card standings. The White Sox fell to 58-80.
- Jeter entered the game hitting .167 in the 11 games in which he played this season. But Jeter broke through by going 2-for-4 with a run scored and two RBIs. Jeter also looked good advancing to third on a fly ball to right off the bat of Robinson Cano in the first inning. Jeter’s two hits raised his season average to .196.
- Gardner was 2-for-5 with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI. In his past four games, Gardner is 7-for-17 (.412) with five doubles, five runs scored and two RBIs. The hot streak has raised Gardner’s season average to .273 and he has eight homers and 45 RBIs out of the leadoff spot.
- Huff, 29, has been excellent since he was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 16. In his five appearances, Huff has given up just one run on six hits and a walk while striking out 10 batters in 16 innings of work. That is an ERA of 0.56 and a WHIP of 0.43. If Hughes loses his starting spot it most definitely will be given to the left-hander.
After Sunday’s disastrous bullpen meltdown and after being swept this same White Sox team a month ago, it was good to see the Yankees put the game away early. The Yankees can’t afford to let teams think they still have a chance to win when they have a lead. They nailed the door shut and got the White Sox to give up early. I have nothing critical to say.
After being called up and being sent down five times in a 10-day period, Preston Claiborne was recalled – likely for the rest of the season – from Class-A Tampa on Monday by the Yankees. The Yankees now have 31 players on their expanded September roster, including 11 relief pitchers. Claiborne, 25, is 0-1 with a 2.78 ERA in 37 appearances with the Yankees this season. . . . Left-hander Cesar Cabral and catcher J.R. Murphy both made their major-league debuts on Monday for the Yankees and Murphy’s insertion into the game as pinch-hitter in the eighth inning for Robinson Cano set an all-time record for the Yankees when they used their 52nd player of the season. Murphy, 22, collected his first major-league hit in that pinch-hitting appearance, drilling a hot shot to third that was scored an infield hit. Meanwhile, Cabral, 24, pitched a scoreless eighth inning, giving up one hit and striking out two batters. Cabral, a left-hander, missed all of the 2012 season after suffering a stress fracture in his left elbow in his final appearance of spring training.
The Yankees will continue their three-game series with the White Sox on Tuesday.
Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.89 ERA) will get the nod for the Yankees. The 39-year-old right-hander has been blasted for 12 runs in his past two outings and needs to get back to his previous form for the Yankees to have a shot of winning a playoff spot. Kuroda is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA in his career against the Chisox.
The White Sox will counter with left-hander Chris Sale (10-12, 2.99 ERA). Sale set a franchise record with his fourth start of 12 strikeouts or more in a victory over the Houston Astros. He has a personal high of 193 strikeouts for the season. He is 2-0 with 0.49 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, WHITE SOX 2
On a day when the New York Yankees honored its past during its 66th Annual Old-Timers’ Day celebration, 26-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes showed those legends that both the Yankees’ present and future is in good hands.
Hughes recovered from a two-run first inning on Sunday to pitch seven scoreless innings after it, striking out eight and walking just one, as New York earned a split of its four-game series with Chicago with a victory in front of a sellout crowd of 48,324 at Yankee Stadium.
Hughes (9-6) got support for his effort from the red-hot bat of Robinson Cano, who celebrated his selection to start at second base for the American League in the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City, MO, with a tie-breaking two-run home run off loser Gavin Floyd (6-8) with one out in the third inning.
Cano’s 20th home run of the season and his 10th in his last 15 games came on a 3-2 fastball that Cano launched on a line into the bleachers in right-center with Mark Teixeira on first via a walk.
Two innings earlier, Eric Chavez, who was playing third base in place of a resting Alex Rodriguez, blasted a two-run home run of his own, his sixth of the season, following a leadoff single by Raul Ibanez.
Hughes did the rest to earn his seventh win in his last 10 starts with the help of a scoreless inning of relief in the ninth from Rafael Soriano for his 18th save in 19 opportunities.
The White Sox must thought it was their ay when they pushed across two runs against Hughes in the first inning.
Alejandro De Aza started it off with a leadoff double to right. Kevin Youkilis singled to left to score De Aza and he scored from second two outs later on a line-drive single to left by Alex Rios.
But after that frame, Hughes only gave up a back-to-back two-out single and double to Paul Konerko and Rios in the third inning. But he escaped that threat by inducing AJ. Pierzynski into an infield popout.
Hughes also gave up a two-out single to to Pierzynski in the sixth but he fanned Dayan Viciedo on three pitches to end that inning.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were making Floyd throw a lot of pitches. He threw 38 alone in the third inning and he left after giving up four runs on eight hits and five walks and he struck out three in 122 pitches over 5 1/3 innings.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 48-30 and they also stretched their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East to six games. The White Sox dropped to 42-37.
- Yankee fans are finally seeing the Hughes who was 10-1 before the All-Star break in 2010. In his last 10 starts, Hughes is 7-2 with a 3.27 ERA, a WHIP of 1.17 and 59 strikeouts in 66 innings. The biggest change in Hughes is that he jettisoned his cutter and he now only throws fastballs, curves and change-ups.
- It is hard to figure what was hotter on Sunday, the 95-degree weather in the Bronx, NY, or Robinson Cano’s bat. Cano came up in the first inning with bases loaded and nobody out, but he hit into a double play and the Yankees did not score. But he atoned for it with his two-run blast in the third inning. Cano’s 2-for-4 day raised his season average to .310, the first time he has reached that mark since May 18.
- Chavez is providing quality defense at third and a potent left-handed bat in the lineup when he starts. In his last seven starts for the Yankees, Chavez is 8-for-23 (.348) with two home runs and seven RBIs. Chavez is hitting .275 with six home runs and 15 RBIs on the season.
- Russell Martin was not hitting well before he re-injured his lower back last week. Since he has returned he has fallen off a cliff. He is 0-for-7 after going 0-for-4 on Sunday. His batting average is now back down to .186 and the Yankees are at a loss as to how to get him hitting again.
- Nick Swisher was 1-for-4 but he struck out three times and he swung at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone or he was fooled into swinging over breaking pitches. Swisher is walking considerably less than he has in any previous season (25) and he is striking out at a rate (60) that could eclipse his season high of 152 in 2006 with Oakland.
- The runners in scoring position bugaboo bit the Yankees again on Sunday. They were 1-for-7 and the one was Cano’s home run. The Yankees fortunately lead the majors with 124 home runs but they are hitting in the .220s with runners in scoring position this season.
Cano was among four Yankees selected to the A.L. All-Star team on Sunday. Cano will be joined by shortstop Derek Jeter, outfielder Curtis Granderson and left-hander CC Sabathia. Sabathia, however, will not pitch in the game because he is on the 15-day disabled list with a mild left groin strain. . . . The Yankees announced on Sunday that they have acquired right-handed reliever Chad Qualls from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations. Qualls, 33, was 1-1 with a 4.60 ERA in 35 appearances for the Phillies. He gave up 39 hits and nine walks and struck 19 batters over 31 1/3 innings. He was designated for assignment by Philadelphia on June 29 and he is expected to available to pitch for the Yankees on Monday in St. Petersburg, FL. . . . Ibanez suffered a laceration on his lip and chipped tooth unsuccessfully trying to avoid a foul ball in the dugout off the bat of Pierzynski in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game. Ibanez was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital after the game and he was expected to be able to join the team for Monday’s game.
The Yankees will open a seven-game road trip against the Rays and Red Sox beginning with Tampa Bay on Monday.
Freddy Garcia (2-2, 6.39 ERA) will get his first start in place of Andy Pettitte in the rotation. Garcia was 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA in his first four starts of the season and was demoted to the bullpen. In the bullpen, he is 2-0 with a 1.56 ERA and he seems to have regained velocity on his fastball. In the last 10 seasons, Garcia is 9-2 with a 3.28 ERA against the Rays.
The Rays will counter with rookie left-hander Matt Moore (4-5, 4.19 ERA). Moore gave up four runs on 10 hits and two walks while striking out five in 7 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday. Moore is 1-0 with 0.00 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:0 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
We have reached the midpoint of the 2011 season for the New York Yankees. Despite the pundits dire predictions about their so-called “suspect” starting rotation, they have the second-best record in baseball and the best record in the American League. They finished the first half on a seven-game winning streak and they were 30-12 (.714) from May 17 to July 2, the best record in baseball. Now it is time to hand out our annual report cards for the players who built that record.
FIRST BASE – MARK TEIXEIRA (.244 BA, 25 HRs, 65 RBIs)
Before spring training began, Mark Teixeira had a mantra rolling through his head: Do not get off to a bad start.
Teixeira had already built a reputation before he even signed with the Yankees in 2009 of being a slow starter with poor April starts. For the past two seasons with the Yankees, the pattern held and 2010 was one of his worst starts ever. On top of that, Teixeira never really got rolling with the bat until after the All-Star break.
But the slow start really hurt in 2010. Teixieira, indeed, got hurt in August and finished with good but not sensational statistics: 33 home runs, 108 RBIs and a .256 average. Winning his fourth Gold Glove was great but Teixeira had not hit below .281 in any season since after his rookie season in 2003.
So the 31-year-old first baseman elected to change his routine this spring to hit more in the batting cage and lift weights less. It was a gamble that getting off to a better start could lead to a dropoff in strength in the second half. But Teixeira was willing to give it a try.
The results were encouraging. Teixeira hit home runs in the first three games and finished April with five home runs and 13 RBIs. However, he batted .256.
That has pretty much been what he has done this season. He is second in the major leagues with 25 home runs and he is fourth in the major leagues with 65 RBIs. But he is hitting .244 and it has had its effect on his potential selection to the 2011 American League All-Star team.
Though Teixeira finished second in the fan voting to Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez at first base, the players selected Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers as the backup. And, in the vote for the final spot, Paul Konerko of the White Sox was placed on the ballot and Teixeira was left out entirely. This is not as much a oversight as what it says about what has happened to Teixeira.
Think back to 2001. That was the year Jason Giambi won the A.L. Most Valuable Player award after hitting .342 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs with Oakland.
The Yankees signed Giambi to a long-term free-agent contract to replace Tino Martinez. And what did Yankee Stadium do to Giambi, who was noted for his ability to hit to all fields? It turned him into a strict pull hitter. Though Giambi hit .314 with 42 home runs and 122 RBIs in 2002, his batting averages dipped considerably after that season.
He hit .250 in 2003, .208 in an injury-plagued 2004, .253 in 2006, .236 in an injury-marred 2007 and .247 in 2008. Giambi was let go after his contract expired because he became a pull-happy low average power hitter. It appears the same thing is happening to Teixeira.
Fortunately for Teixeira, his pull-happy style is not hurting his run production. He is hitting .187 with the bases empty this season and .268 with runners in scoring position. But his .256 average from 2010 and his current .244 average in 2011 do indicate that his inability to go to the opposite field is hurting him as it did Giambi.
One thing, the Yankees can count on from Teixeira is his excellent glove at first. Unlike Giambi, Teixeira has exceptional range, agility and footwork. Teixeira gloves anything he can get to and he also is exceptional in digging balls out the dirt. He has saved the Yankees a lot of throwing errors this season.
There are not many in baseball than can compare to him in the field.
The fact that he is almost assured of having his eighth straight season of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs is an exceptional achievement. Only teammate Alex Rodriguez (13) and the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (10) have longer streaks. So Teixeira is doing what he what brought to the Yankees to do. The fact he is n a pace to hit a career-high 50 home runs and drive his second-bast number of runs at 130 indicates Teixeira is a valuable commodity on a team with designs of winning its 27th championship.
But that batting average sticks out like a sore thumb. As long as it is not an issue with the Yankees and Teixeira, maybe the fans won’t really care either. But I can’t help but think that not making the All-Star team with all his infield teammates chafes a little. Maybe Teixeira will see that hitting a few balls to the opposite field could help him in the long run.
But until we see it, the Teixeira we are seeing is pretty much what we are going to get.
Taking into account his fielding and his production you have to give Teixeira an A for that. But his batting average is a major concern. So I am marking him at B- for the first half. If his average does not pickup in the second half I may mark him down to a C+. He simply has to do better at being more consistent.
Early in the season Eric Chavez was on the roster to back up Rodriguez at third and Teixeira at first. He proved to be a valuable backup off the bench, hitting .303 in 53 at-bats. However, he injured his left foot running the bases in Detroit on May 5 and has been on the disabled list ever since. He is eligible to come of the 60-day list on July 5, but Chavez is being held back by a back strain. So he likely will not return until sometime after the All-Star break. This has been the story of Chavez’s career. The last season Chavez played more than 90 games was 2006.
With Chavez out the Yankees have used Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher in short stints at first. They will remain the primary backups until Chavez is ready to play.
But, make no mistake. Teixeira will play most of the rest of the games at first. He started 77 of the first 81 games.
At the minor-league level, Jorge Vazquez, 29, who wowed fans in spring training with his hot bat, is doing what he does best at Triple-A Scranton. Vazquez has 20 home runs and 52 RBIs in 65 games. But he also has struck out 93 times and he is hitting only .257. So the Yankees have a nice carbon copy of Teixeira in Vazquez minus the fielding prowess.
We are not likely to see Vazquez unless Teixeira is injured. So let’s hope we don’t see Vazquez.
FIRST HALF GRADES
Chavez I (Incomplete)
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B-
If Texeira can pull his batting average up in the second half to a respectable number and he maintains his production, Teixeira will go a long way towards raising his own brand name at the position as well as helping the Yankees in their pennant chase. Teixeira is a far cry from terrible. His fielding, his power, his production and his intensity are all top notch. If he can pull that average up he would be a complete player. The Yankees also need Chavez back because he was providing solid defense at first and exceptional fielding at third. He also was a much-needed left-hand power threat off the bench. But the storyline of his career is: If only he can stay healthy. And so it is in 2011.
NEXT: SECOND BASE
- So many times Burnett has been handed big leads and squandered them but he deserved a better fate on Monday. Burnett retired the side in order in five of the eight innings he worked. He threw 108 pitches and 67 of them were strikes. He also kept the White Sox power hitters like Quentin, Konerko and Dunn from leaving the yard. Burnett should really sue the Yankees’ hitters fro non-support.
- Granderson extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single to lead off the ninth inning. During the hitting streak, Granderson is 15 for 36 (.417) with five home runs and nine RBIs. He also walked and stole base in the fourth inning.
- For the second game in a row, Brett Gardner made a spectacular catch. In the sixth inning he made a headlong diving catch of a sinking liner off the bat of Juan Pierre.
- For seven innings the Yankees managed to make Humber look like Roy Halliday. Humber is former No. 1 pick of the New York Mets who is only starting for the White Sox because Jake Peavy is on the disabled list. But this should be no surprise because the Yankees have a history of not hitting pitchers they face for the first time. You would have more action in old episode of the “Gilmore Girls” than when the Yankees were at-bat tonight.
- Teixeira. In the fourth inning with Granderson at second and one out he hit massive popup to second baseman Gordon Beckham. He also struck out looking and — to top off his evening — Teixeira followed Granderson’s leadoff single in the ninth by hitting into a double play started by Konerko.
- Jorge Posada. With Swisher at first after being hit by a pitch and one out, Posada promptly hit into a double play started by Konerko. He also struck out and grounded out.
- Derek Jeter. With pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez in scoring position with two outs in the eighth inning, Jeter weakly bounced out to the pitcher Santos.
- Honorable mention to Robinson Cano: In going 0-3, Cano managed to see a total of seven pitches. He flew out to left on the first pitch he saw in the second, grounded out to Konerko on the second pitch in the fifth and struck out swinging on four pitches in the seventh. The pitch he fanned on was at the bill of his batting helmet.
- Rafael Soriano is quickly becoming a target of the boo-birds after another shaky appearance in relief. He gave up two hits and a walk and was only bailed out from giving up more than the one run he did on an inning-ending double play. His ERA is now at 6.75.