Mark Teixeira is playing in an actual baseball game today. It will be an extended spring training game against a bunch of kids from the Pittsburgh organization, but still… for the first time since early March, he’ll step on a baseball field against another team with pitchers who’s only goal is to get him out.
“We’ve told the Pirates, listen, even if you think about let me throw one up and in here to get him off the dish, don’t,” Teixeira said. “That’s the last thing we need.”
Because this is extended spring training, Teixeira will get at least one at-bat in every inning until the Yankees decide he’s played enough (same for Kevin Youkilis). Teixeira will also play the field and run the bases. He thinks he’ll need just three extended spring games and two Double-A games before being activated.
Why, after nearly three months, should Teixeira expect to be ready after only five games?
“Sim games,” he said. “I saw 40 to 50 pitches every day for the last week. You can’t do that in a regular game. You could walk four or five times (if you did that) in a regular game. There’s a reason those kids are in extended spring training right now. We make sure in the sim games, ‘Listen,’ you tell the guys, ‘throw strikes, and try to get them out, but throw strikes.’ If there’s a walk then I keep hitting to make sure that I’m actually swinging the bat, and that’s been great. Those sim games are really valuable.”
The time off has actually given Teixeira time to work through a sort of personal to-do list of sorts, making sure he was fully healthy and fully prepared as soon as he was cleared to swing.
“The swing is really good,” he said. “One thing I’ve really concentrated on the last two and a half months is, any little thing that has been bothering me since college, I’ve taken care of. Little pains, little things where I’ve said, ‘If I ever have a lot of time off where I wasn’t preparing for a season, I would fix this.’ I’ve tried to really make sure that everything is working properly and my body feels good. I feel great right now. I can’t complain about that.”
In those simulated games, Teixeira has basically tried for a 2-to-1 ratio of left-handed at-bats and right-handed at-bats. He bats lefty more often in the season, so he tries to do the same when he’s doing drills. If he had his way, Teixeira would have been playing in games several weeks ago, but the Yankees have given him plenty of time to leave no doubt — as much as that’s possible — that the wrist is healed. All that’s left are a few final tuneups, and those begin today.
“I’ve been taking full swings, trying to hit the ball as far as I can, for a long time,” Teixeira said. “And I have been. I’ve been hitting the ball great for a couple weeks now. That’s all I’ve got. I’m swinging really hard and no problems.”
Associated Press photo