Mark Teixeira hopes his Tex message home runs this week also are being received in the front office. Teixeira is in a contract year, and the free-agent-to-be has only one desire: to remain a Yankee.
Teixeira’s opposite-field three-run homer in the seventh inning Thursday broke a 5-5 tie and gave the Yankees an 8-5 victory over the Astros at the Stadium. It’s a tiny sample, but he is hitting .364 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the first three games of the season.
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“I think he’s in a good place,’’ Joe Girardi said, not necessarily intending the double meaning of his first baseman being in a groove and resolute in remaining with the team. “Tex is a guy who takes spring training slow and likes to really get after the last eight to 10 days. And it just kind of gets him in a good spot. He’s swung the bat extremely well for us.’’
Most potential free agents do not show their cards so early, usually waiting for other potential offers after the season. But Teixeira, 35, realizes the youth movement on the Yankees likely has understudy Greg Bird, out for this season after shoulder surgery, penciled in next season at a club-friendly salary.
“The Yankees are the whole package,’’ Teixeira said. “Once you play for the Yankees, you’ve kind of reached the pinnacle of major league baseball. It’s just tough to see myself in another uniform.’’
So he’s hoping a big season might convince the Yankees to bring him back.
Girardi recalled the fallout last year when Teixeira went down with a fracture in his right leg in August. The injury effectively ended his season. “It really changed our lineup against lefthanders,’’ Girardi said. “Greg Bird did a real ly good job, but Tex is a Gold Glove first baseman, and he’s a switch hitter in the middle of the order. He’s productive from both sides. When we don’t have him, we miss him. We definitely missed him and it’s great to have him back.’’
In the seventh, Teixeira, batting lefthanded against right handed reliever Ken Giles, lined a 1-and-0 pitch just over the leftfield wall.
“He’s facing a guy who throws hard,’’ Girardi said. “He gets the head of the bat to it and is able to drive it the other way, which is extremely important. It just says he’s let the ball travel. Big game for him.’’
Said Teixeira, “I haven’t hit many that way. When I do, it feels good. I am a pull hitter, especially lefthanded. It’s good to have that kind of swing. A 1-0 pitch, I’m just looking for a ball to drive there. It just was tailing away a little bit. Just put a good swing on it. I hit it really well — line drive — I just didn’t know if it was going to be high enough. At the very least, it’s a run or two, a double. And I was just happy about the swing.’’
And perhaps the message it sent.