Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004. Show More
This was early February and Brian Cashman was sitting on a couch at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. The topic was Alex Rodriguez and some now-forgotten development in the Yankees vs. A-Rod soap opera, a drama that seems to have ended with that strange and wonderful news conference at Yankee Stadium on Friday night.
A-Rod and the Yankees. No longer enemies.
It was impossible to fathom that when Cashman casually chatted with reporters on a variety of Yankees topics before a charity dinner.
It didn't make headlines on that cold night, but Cashman made a bold prediction: Mark Teixeira would have a bounce-back year. It seemed as unlikely as Yankees executives brokering a deal between A-Rod and that 3,000-hit-ball guy or A-Rod and the club reaching an agreement on his disputed home-run payment that funneled $3.5 million to charities instead of lawyers' fees.
But Cashman was right. Along with A-Rod, Teixeira has been at the heart of the Yankees' surprisingly successful first 81 games of the season.
Teixeira came through Friday night with a dramatic tying three-run home run in the eighth inning and an RBI single in the 12th to set up Brian McCann's walk-off three-run homer in the Yankees' 7-5 victory over Tampa Bay. He did it again Saturday with a sacrifice fly and rally-starting double in the bottom of the ninth as the Yankees again walked off against the Rays, 3-2.
If Cashman had extra time on that night at Mohegan Sun, he should have visited the craps or roulette tables or put a few quarters in a slot machine. The odds certainly were stacked against a healthy breakout season for Teixeira at age 35 after two years wrecked by wrist surgery.
But counting on Teixeira -- not that Cashman had much choice, considering the dollars and years left on his first baseman's contract -- has turned into a jackpot for the Yankees.
After going 1-for-3 with an RBI Saturday, Teixeira is hitting .246 with 20 home runs and an AL-best 59 RBIs in 75 games. In 2013, he lasted 15 games before needing wrist surgery. Last season, he played in 123 games and hit .216 with 22 homers and 62 RBIs.
Perhaps what Cashman knew in the days before spring training opened was that Teixeira's wrist felt better and that he had remade his body by swearing off gluten, sugar and dairy.
The first part probably is the more significant one, but if replacing bread with tofu makes Teixeira hit better, maybe the Yankees should start ordering it for all of their players.
Whatever the reason, Teixeira is back to being a force. "Once I saw him swing the bat early in spring training, I knew he was healthy," Joe Girardi said. "He'd had a normal offseason and he's always been a huge run-producer. That's what he's doing. He's always been a guy you could pretty much pencil in 30 and 100."
On Saturday, the Yankees needed Teixeira to start a rally after Dellin Betances allowed a tying two-run home run by Steven Souza Jr. in the ninth.
Teixeira led off the bottom half with a double into the rightfield corner that was hit so low and hard that it beat the shift only by getting through first baseman James Loney and second baseman/short rightfielder Jake Elmore, both of whose dives came up empty.
"That's as hard as I can hit it," said Teixeira, who was replaced by pinch runner Jose Pirela. The rookie scored the winning run on a throwing error by pitcher Brad Boxberger on Ramon Flores' sacrifice bunt.
Could Teixeira have hit it that hard last year? "It was definitely tougher," he said. "We've talked about last year and the year before ad nauseam."
It's always there, right beneath the surface, that Teixeira could get hurt again. But for now, Cashman's prediction and Teixeira's production must have the Yankees feeling as if they're playing with house money with exactly half a season to go. Might as well let it ride.