This winter, Mark Teixeira bought a pitching machine. He gave it to Bobby Valentine’s Sports Academy in Stamford, CT., where kids can use the machine for their own batting practice. It’s available to anyone. Most days, anyway.
“They make sure that, when I’m in there, I get the cage to myself,” Teixeira said.
It took Teixeira four or five weeks to rebound from his October hamstring injury, and it took him until the end of December to begin to feel comfortable with his bruised hand and broken toe, but when he was healthy enough to swing a bat, Teixeira started hitting. And he kept hitting.
Last year was unusually inconsistent for the Yankees first baseman. He finished with the lowest batting average of his career, and the lowest slugging percentage since his rookie year. He hit .244 against right-handed pitchers. To remedy those numbers, he’s committed himself to more time in the cage, whether back home in Connecticut or down here in Tampa or back at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
“At the end of the day, no matter how long I’ve been playing baseball, I’m still a right-handed hitter who switch hits,” Teixeira said. “I’ve had to work harder at it (from the left side)… That muscle memory is very, very important. My attitude this year is, if I have a half hour, instead of putting it in the gym lifting weight, put it in the cage and make sure my left-handed swing is consistent.”
Manager Joe Girardi said he never considered pulling Teixeira out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup last season, trusting that a hitter who had shown such consistency would eventually hit up to his ability. And Teixera had stretches of his old MVP-caliber self.
But Teixeira is also well aware that last season was not up to his standards. He’s also aware that last year started with another bad month of April, something he would like to avoid this time around.
“This spring training, I told K-Long, give me some tough love,” Teixeira said. “Don’t tell me I’m doing OK if I’m not. I want to make sure, April 1 or March 30, whatever it is, that we’re ready to go.”
Associated Press photo