Teixeira itching to test wrist in game action
After missing almost all of 2013, slugger set to make spring debut Thursday
TAMPA, Fla. -- Taking plenty of practice cuts is not a new occurrence for Mark Teixeira, who has periodically mentioned that as a switch-hitter, he feels the need to work twice as hard, since he must hone his swings from both sides of the plate.
Naturally, it was an overuse injury that kept him off the field for most of last season. There is a balance to be found, but as Teixeira prepares to take the field for his first game of the spring, the Yankees first baseman is eager to chalk up swings in game action.
Teixeira is scheduled to play in the Yankees' 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, and he should have two or three at-bats in the game broadcast on MLB.TV. Limited to 15 games last year, Teixeira remains confident that he will be ready for Opening Day.
"It's March 5," Teixeira said on Wednesday. "If you don't have enough time in Spring Training to get ready from March 5 on, then you're never going to get ready. There's plenty of time."
Teixeira was apparently displeased by being limited in preparation work this week. He had been originally scheduled to hit against live pitching on Tuesday, but was unable to because pitching coach Larry Rothschild told manager Joe Girardi that the team didn't have a hurler ready to throw.
On Wednesday morning at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Teixeira dug in against right-hander David Herndon, but only took three swings, according to reports. Rothschild ended Herndon's sim game after 21 pitches to Teixeira and Scott Sizemore, and Teixeira exclaimed, "That's it?" before gathering his gear and leaving the diamond.
"I thought I was going to get a lot more work the last few days, but I do what I am told," Teixeira told reporters.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was already en route to the Rays' complex in Port Charlotte, Fla., when Teixeira's session began at 9:25 a.m. ET. Girardi said that he would talk to Teixeira early on Thursday, and the manager expects to have Teixeira in the lineup against Philadelphia.
"If he feels he's ready to go, we'll put him in there," Girardi said. "If he needs another day, we'll give him another day."
Teixeira had said earlier in the day that he wants to do more swinging, testing his surgically repaired wrist with events like swings and misses, check-swings and contact. He also understands why the Yankees want to proceed cautiously, as no one wants to relive the events of last season.
"In some respects, it was a really, really slow year," Teixeira said. "In some respects, it went by quickly, because I was so busy trying to get back. My mind was always working. My body was shut down for a while, but my mind was always, 'When can I start rehabbing? When can I pick up a bat?' I can see it both ways."
With question marks littered around the infield, Teixeira is among the players that the Yankees are watching most closely this spring, and he arguably could offer the biggest payoff.
Teixeira expects that he will be able to recapture his expected levels of 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, numbers that he has not reached since 2011. Girardi hopes that is the case, but at this stage of the spring, he will settle for seeing Teixeira healthy and on the field.
"It's tough when these guys are used to playing every day and you take their livelihood away from them for basically a year," Girardi said. "It's tough on them. I'm looking forward to seeing him out there, because we really missed him last year."
There is little to prepare for a worst-case scenario with Teixeira. General manager Brian Cashman recently offered the name of career Minor Leaguer Russ Canzler as a backup option, and Canzler has been playing a good deal of first base during the initial spring games.
Kelly Johnson has played some first base, though he's in line as the leading candidate for third base. Of course, the Yankees did not have their regular first baseman on the roster until March 26 last year, when they scrambled to sign Lyle Overbay as a castoff from the Red Sox.
Thus, one afternoon either way probably won't make a world of difference for Teixeira, who tore the ECU tendon sheath in his wrist while hitting off a tee last March 5. Teixeira had been preparing to play with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic; instead, Teixeira had season-ending surgery in early July.
"I'm very excited -- as excited as you can be for a Spring Training game," Teixeira said. "Getting back in real game conditions will be nice. What's it been now, eight months? That's longer than I've ever taken in my life. I'm looking forward to it."