For Tex, what a difference a year makes

The New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira, right, celebrates

The New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira, right, celebrates with teammate Nick Swisher after scoring on an error in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox, during the second game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. (Sept. 25, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

How he feels entering this year's postseason compared with how he felt a year ago is night and day for Mark Teixeira.

"So much better,'' Teixeira said. "Last year was just very, very difficult, playing through pain and not being able to work as much as I'd like to.''

Teixeira entered the 2010 postseason battling a series of injuries, the worst of which were a broken right pinkie toe and a bone bruise at the base of his right thumb.

Teixeira's season ended, almost appropriately, when he severely strained his hamstring while running to first base in the Yankees' ALCS Game 4 loss to the Rangers at the Stadium.

He suffered the bone bruise and broken toe within a week of each other in late August, making the final month and the postseason difficult, and not just because of the pain. One of the hardest parts, he said, was cutting back the amount of pregame work -- on the field and in the batting cage -- with hitting coach Kevin Long.

"I couldn't do much at all,'' said Teixeira, who walked in the first inning of a game that was held up by rain after 11/2 innings with the score tied at 1 Friday night. "I think anyone on this team will tell you we work very hard, we do a lot of work in the cage, and if we're not doing it, we kind of feel like fish out of water. We're a bunch of cage rats. We need that.''

Joe Girardi tried to rest Teixeira down the stretch last season as much as he could, but the injuries were the kind that simply weren't going to heal until the offseason.

"Physically last year, he was a mess, just a real mess,'' Girardi said before the Yankees kicked off their postseason against the Tigers in the ALDS Friday night. "Last year he had the broken toe, the bad hand. He ended up ripping his hamstring up. He had the bad knee as well, in a sense. So I think those three things really took its toll on him.''

Teixeira, who hit .248 with 39 homers and 111 RBIs this season, enters this postseason healthy, aided by some of the rest Girardi gave him in the final week as the Yankees, having clinched home-field advantage, played out the string.

"This year I've obviously had bumps and bruises, as we all have,'' Teixeira said. "We've all gone through stretches where we're tired, but this last week's really helped me recharge my batteries and get my swing where I need it to be.''

Teixeira, who batted third pretty much all season, batted fifth Friday night against righthander Justin Verlander. The plan is for him to bat fifth against righties the rest of the way, with Robinson Cano third. Girardi flipped the two for the first time Tuesday against the Rays, making a decision he'd been contemplating for a few weeks because of the season Cano is having, but also because of Teixeira's struggles against righthanders.

"I'm all for it,'' said Teixeira, who hit .224 with a .325 on-base percentage as a lefthanded batter and .302/.380 as a righthanded hitter. "Obviously, lefthanded, my average isn't where it should be and Robbie's had a great season. He's hot. Really hot. Why not mix it up against a righty and put him third?''

Putting his performance against righties another way, he said: "Right now, the fact is, my average stinks lefthanded.''

And that's the side Teixeira mostly will be batting from in the ALDS, as he isn't likely to face many lefties. Game 2 starter Doug Fister and Game 3 starter Max Scherzer are righties. "Sometimes that's good,'' he said of repeatedly batting from one side. "If you get in a groove one way, that's great. If you're not in a groove and it happens to be one of those stretches where you're not feeling good from one side of the plate, it can be really bad. But I feel really good at the plate right now and hopefully will be able to do some damage in the postseason.''

Teixeira's season ended on a good note as he hit two homers, including a grand slam, against Rays lefthander David Price on Wednesday. He hit 24 homers in 397 at-bats as a lefthanded batter and 15 homers in 189 at-bats as a righthanded hitter.

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