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Tex pleased about new approach as lefty hitter

Mark Teixeira flies out to rightfield while playing

Mark Teixeira flies out to rightfield while playing the University of South Florida. (March 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

MIAMI -- To use a phrase from golf, another sport he's partial to, Mark Teixeira has left the bunt in his bag.

But the first baseman insists it's still in there.

"I still have it in my back pocket if I need it," Teixeira said Monday night. "I worked on it in the offseason, I've worked on it in practice here in spring training. But for me, it was more important to prove to myself and to prove to other teams that if you're going to pound me away, then I'm going to hit the ball the other way."

Which, of course, was the most significant issue Teixeira wanted to address in spring training. By and large, he's been successful.

"I'm pleased with the four weeks of games here so far," said Teixeira, who entered Monday night's game hitting .292 with a .404 on-base percentage.

At the same time, he's been in the game long enough to know he'll have to prove it all over again starting Friday.

"I also have to realize I have a long season ahead," Teixeira said. "I know I'm going through slumps, I know I'm going to have times where I have to make even more adjustments, whatever they may be. Every season is always going to be a constant game of adjustments. I made my adjustment for spring training, I'll go into the season with it. Hopefully, I'll get a lot of hits and we'll win a lot of games. But what I've done here doesn't guarantee anything for the season."

Still, Teixeira said the success he's had going the other way is encouraging. Any adjustment is a challenge, and seeing positive results helps.

"It's very reassuring," he said. "I'm not going to change the way I hit, I just want a few more hits the other way lefthanded. And if I can accomplish that, that's going to help the team out."

Teixeira's somewhat odd 2011 made the adjustment necessary.

He hardly had a lost season, hitting .248 with a .341 on-base percentage, 39 homers and 111 RBIs. But the splits jumped off the page: .224 with a .325 on-base percentage and .453 slugging percentage lefthanded and .302 with a .380 OBP and .587 SLG righthanded.

"This is the one glaring need for my game, hitting the ball the other way lefthanded," he said.

Tempted by Yankee Stadium's short rightfield porch, Teixeira tried to pull everything when batting lefthanded last season, and many of his problems were caused by the dramatic shift that more and more teams employed against him. At the Thurman Munson dinner Jan. 31, he declared his intention to bunt as a way to combat it, earning the headlines.

He said Monday he's been "tempted" once or twice to lay one down but hasn't seen much shifting. Major league teams, like NFL teams, don't show everything in the preseason.

"I never needed to," he said. "I didn't get shifted very much. I hit the ball the other way enough that in essence, that's my bunt . . . I've hit plenty of balls the other way to where teams are going to have to think twice about how they're playing me."

Although Teixeira hasn't homered, he has hit six doubles, some to the opposite field from the left side, another accomplishment.

"I haven't hit any home runs because I really haven't tried to launch the ball very much," he said. "But I'm pleased with the doubles lefthanded, especially the opposite-field doubles. I've probably had more this spring training [that way] than all of last year. So that's what I'm pleased with."

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