Tex trying to use whole field as lefty hitter
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Mark Teixeira hasn't abandoned the idea of bunting. It's just that he currently has more significant items on his spring training plate.
"That's really the last thing on my mind right now," Teixeira said Monday.
The slugging first baseman created more than a few headlines Jan. 31 when, at the Thurman Munson dinner in Manhattan, he declared his intention to bunt as a way to combat the shift that frustrated him when he batted lefthanded in 2011.
The switch hitter has yet to bunt in an exhibition game and said the reason is twofold: The right situation hasn't presented itself and, more significant, his attention is elsewhere.
"I've made a point in games to not try to pull the ball," said Teixeira, who was not in the lineup Monday night against the Astros but is likely to play Tuesday night against the Red Sox. "I've really been concentrating on staying up the middle, hitting balls the other way in games so far. In a week or two, I'll start thinking of driving the ball more."
Said Joe Girardi: "I've been pleased. I've seen him use the whole field."
Teixeira said multiple times during the offseason that "I need to get more singles" while batting lefthanded. In evaluating his 2011 season, what he kept coming back to was his splits.
Teixeira hit .248 with a .341 on-base percentage, 39 homers and 111 RBIs in 2011, hardly a lost season. But the splits were striking: .224 with a .325 on-base percentage and .453 slugging percentage lefthanded and .302 with a .380 OBP and .587 SLG righthanded.
Teixeira, 3-for-9 with three walks in four games thus far, said a big problem was his approach at the Stadium. "That rightfield porch is just so enticing,'' he said in January.
"At the end of every season, you assess the situation," he said Monday. "My bat speed was good, my power was good, I didn't strike out any more [than usual], so my pitch recognition was pretty good. But lefthanded, I pulled the ball way too much. I came around the ball too much."
Among the things Teixeira and hitting coach Kevin Long have worked on when he's hitting lefthanded is keeping his hands in rather than away from his body. "I'm always going to be naturally a pull hitter lefthanded. Most lefties are," Teixeira said. "But I think I've taken it to an extreme the last two years. And so my goal is not to change the way I hit lefthanded; my goal is to make sure that I'm taking advantage of the whole field. On a low-and-away pitch, I can come around it and hit the ball hard right to the second baseman or the first baseman. If I stay inside it a little better, I can hit a line drive to center or left-center."
Teams haven't employed the shift much against Teixeira in spring training and he doesn't expect it, comparing the situation to NFL coaches in the preseason. "They don't show everything," he said.
Teixeira called the adjustment he's making "a process," adding: "It's such a little thing I need to do but it's a very important thing. The bat path is something I've talked all spring about. Staying inside just a little bit allows me to use the whole field."
And, yes, he still hopes to lay one down. "I would like to have a situation where I can try it," he said. "That would be good to break out sometime during the spring."