Yanks in no state to downplay bump in power
Though hardly the player of his prime, Teixeira brings needed pop to club
NEW YORK -- It's funny how quickly "too many home runs" can turn into "not enough home runs."
The Yankees, searching for some offensive traction since a hot start to the season, could really use a few more homers. Or even a lot more homers. Conveniently, Mark Teixeira can provide just that.
In leading the Yankees to Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Indians, Teixeira homered for the second time in as many games, providing another encouraging sign as the two-time All-Star continues his rehabilitation from a right wrist injury he sustained in the spring. Teixeira's batting average and on-base percentage have declined in recent years, but he has remained a prolific power producer.
The addition of a healthy and effective Teixeira would be a major upgrade to a lineup that could use it. New York's 66 homers rank sixth in the American League, which sounds better than it really is, all things considered. The Yankees don't really hit for average, they don't run much, they have on-base issues and they play in a hitters' park. They need to rank near the top of the league in power in order to have a contending-quality offense.
The familiar lament -- that the Yankees somehow hit "too many homers," or relied too much on the long ball -- was always silly. It's silly for any team; home runs are good. But it's especially silly in the Bronx, where the path to success usually includes clearing the outfield wall. Hitting for power is a skill, and if your team has that skill, it's going to score more runs than if it doesn't.
"Remember all those Yankees fans crying about how all we do is hit home runs?" mused general manager Brian Cashman. "Now they're crying, 'We don't score any runs.'"
Enter Teixeira. He made his season debut on Friday after missing the season's first eight weeks. He went 1-for-9 with seven strikeouts in his first three games, but the switch-hitting veteran has looked more like himself over the past two. In addition to Tuesday's homer, he singled in his first at-bat, stung a liner to left in his third and drew a walk.
It's probably a quicker surge than the Yankees could have reasonably expected. Teixeira played all of five Spring Training games before being injured, and he made six plate appearances on his Minor League rehab assignment. He's a long way from being caught up with the guys he's competing against, and yet the results are already starting to come.
"I said all along that I thought it would probably take him a little bit of time," said manager Joe Girardi. "I think it's kind of unfair to ask a guy that's been down two months and didn't have a normal Spring Training to come in and be where other guys are at."
Once he's at full speed, though, Teixeira will make a formidable addition. If he's already there, it's very big for the Yankees. Because even over the past three seasons, as some of his other numbers have dwindled, Teixeira has remained a reliable source of extra-base pop.
From 2010-12, Teixeira launched 96 homers, tied for eighth most in the Major Leagues. His .484 slugging percentage in that time ranked 26th, and he's 19th in extra-base hits -- despite missing nearly all of last September due to injury.
Hitting the ball a long way is what Teixeira does. He's good at it. And he doesn't shy away from it.
"Home runs are important," Teixeira said. "They really are. Anyone that says, 'You hit too many home runs,' there is no such thing as hitting too many home runs."
Adding to the encouragement, Teixeira has already homered from each side of the plate this year. He has historically been more effective overall against left-handed pitching, though he has typically had power from both sides of the plate.
Mostly, though, the reason for optimism is simple. Wrist injuries sap hitters' power. It's a scary situation for a power hitter to have a bad wrist. So for Teixeira to have gone deep twice already in five games is exciting to him and to the Yankees.
"Hitting a home run left-handed and right-handed just kind of shows [me], 'OK, just let it go,'" Teixeira said. "That's what I've always done. I've never tried to punch it to the opposite field or anything. So it's definitely a good sign for the wrist."
And that's a good sign for his team.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.