Mark Teixeira wants to do more than just put ball in play

Mark Teixeira reacts after hitting into a second Mark Teixeira reacts after hitting into a second inning double play against the Kansas City Royals. (May 22, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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OAKLAND, Calif. -- It sounded counter-intuitive, which Mark Teixeira readily acknowledged.

"I've been putting too many balls in play," the struggling first baseman said recently. "That sounds crazy, but I don't think I've been as aggressive at the plate."

And so Teixeira, who entered Friday night's game against the Athletics hitting .226 with a .291 on-base percentage, is altering his approach.

Teixeira, whose overall production is down -- five homers and 21 RBIs -- explained the "putting too many balls in play" comment.

"When I'm swinging, instead of fouling a pitch off or missing -- there's nothing wrong with missing the first pitch of the at-bat -- but if you ground it out or pop it up, man, I just wasted that at-bat," he said. "Maybe it's good to not see as many strikes and kind of lock in on your pitch and what you want to hit."

Hitting coach Kevin Long said it's about Teixeira doing more "damage," and agreed with the first baseman's contention that he's been focused too much on contact, resulting in more weak groundouts and pop-ups.

"Swinging and missing on those pitches can kind of give [hitters] new life," Long said. "As opposed to putting that ball in play and you're out."

Long said the hope is to get Teixeira more aggressive "toward right-centerfield."

"He wants to be more aggressive as far as driving the ball and thinking more damage as opposed to just staying inside it," Long added.

When he has been at his most productive, Teixeira said, he misses his share of pitches.

"I've never been someone that just wants to put the ball in play," he said. "In years past, say it's a 1-0 pitch or a 2-0 pitch, and it's maybe a little bit up or a little bit down, you swing and you foul it off or you swing and miss. Now I'm putting that ball in play, which [stinks].''

Simply put, he's not jumping on as many pitches.

"I'd rather hit 39 home runs than 20 or 15, I'd rather drive in 111 runs than 80," Teixeira said. "So I'm going to be more aggressive, I'll tell you that much."

Teixeira hit fifth Friday night, two days after hitting third. In the two games before that, Joe Girardi dropped him to seventh.

"I think we probably worry about that too much," Teixeira said of the batting order. "The competitor in me says I want to hit where I've always hit, and we've had a lot of success here, we've won a lot of games with me hitting third. And I think we're just trying to figure it out . . . But it's not oh, you're hitting a certain spot in the order, I'm going to start hitting now."

Notes & quotes: David Robertson (strained left oblique) and Brett Gardner (strained right elbow) are in Tampa. Girardi said Robertson played catch Thursday and "felt pretty decent today" but added there's still some "stiffness," likely because he hadn't thrown in two weeks. Gardner is scheduled to swing Monday. Regarding whether either player will be able to join the team during this 10-day trip, Girardi said: "I'm not sure it's going to happen." . . . An MRI performed on the left elbow of top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos revealed no damage. "The ligament checked out fine," Girardi said. "He just has some soreness, but he'll be down for a while."

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