Mark Teixeira isn’t all that far removed from his playing days.
The former Yankees first baseman, who hit 409 home runs and drove in 1,298 runs, retired after the 2016 season after spending the final eight seasons of his 14-year major-league career in pinstripes.
So he hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a major-leaguer, and with MLB indefinitely shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Teixeira feels for his big-league brethren currently navigating the unknown.
“I can’t imagine what these players and coaches are going through right now,” Teixeira, now an ESPN analyst, said by phone Monday. “Especially if you’re in the prime of your career and you’ve been waiting all offseason for the year to get started. And you’re all excited, and then you’re sent home.
“Not only that, you’re sent home and you have to stay inside. Guys are probably going nuts right now.”
When it comes to the uncertainty of when spring training will resume, Teixeira thinks the pitchers are impacted the most.
“It’s much more challenging for the pitchers, I believe,” he said.
“As a hitter, there’s only so much I [need to] do. I can take some ground balls, if I’m lucky enough to have somebody hit me some ground balls and have a park close by. I can run on a treadmill or run outside and I can lift weights. I can hit in the cage. That doesn’t change whether you show up in spring training in a week or a month or six months. The problem is a pitcher needs to know what he’s working up to.”
Teixeira used the Yankees’ new ace, Gerrit Cole — signed to a nine-year, $324 million deal in December — as an example in a general sense.
“You can’t have him ramping up right now and basically throwing for 12 months out of the year, and at certain points not knowing when he’s going to have a rest or when he’s going to need to go seven [innings],” Teixeira said. “For a pitcher, a starting pitcher especially, this has to be very difficult.”
He added, “The reason I think that is, imagine a pitcher who starts his offseason throwing program Jan. 1. And he slowly ramps up to a point where he’s throwing to live batters in mid-February at spring training. If you tell that guy to be hot for 12 months straight, I really worry about what that will do to these guys’ arms, both long-term and short-term.”
Non-pitchers, Teixeira said, simply don’t have those kinds of issues. Other issues, yes, but not ones comparable to pitchers.
“As a position player, in six months, I can take as much time off as I want,” Teixeira said. “If you have a pitcher who is coming back in six months and he doesn’t know when, he still needs to be throwing.
“I think in the short-term, position players might be at a little bit of a disadvantage . . . but in the long-term, if we’re talking about really pushing this season back, I think that’s where pitchers are in trouble.”