With one swing Friday night, Rob Refsnyder equaled 25 games of run production from Mark Teixeira. The fourth-inning single, with two outs, drove in Didi Gregorius to break a 3-3 tie in the Yankees’ eventual 5-3 win over the Twins.
You read that correctly.
In the month leading up to his stay on the disabled list, Teixeira had a grand total of one RBI in 93 plate appearances despite never batting lower than fifth — and spending 60 percent of those games in the cleanup spot. That’s almost impossible to do, especially for a switch hitter with 397 home runs on his resume who is playing his home games at Yankee Stadium.
Teixeira was struggling so badly when he finally landed on the DL earlier this month — with torn articular cartilage in his right knee — that we called it the best thing that could have happened for him and the Yankees. Not because of the injury, obviously. But it allowed Teixeira the chance to recuperate, removed from the heart of the Yankees’ lineup, where he was hurting them on a nightly basis.
Now that Teixeira is scheduled to return today after a three-day rehab tour at Triple-A Scranton, is he going to be a help or a hindrance? Before the DL stint, Teixeira’s .535 OPS was the worst in the majors among qualified players — at any position — and his .180 batting average was next to last. He also was in the midst of a 41-game homerless drought, a dry spell that stretched over 159 plate appearances. Is it reasonable to think those numbers suddenly will improve?
“Our thought is that he’s going to be Mark,” Joe Girardi said. “I know he’s off to a slow start. But I really don’t believe that’s going to continue.”
Of course Girardi is going to say that. He’s the manager, and a loyal one. But Teixeira, by delaying surgery, is going to have to find a way to be productive with that cartilage tear, which didn’t just disappear. And the short stay at Scranton wasn’t much of a test. In three games, Teixeira played only two at first base, and just one for the entire nine innings. At the plate, he went 1-for-9 with a single. Teixeira then took Friday night off.
First base has been like the Bermuda Triangle for the Yankees this season, so getting back Teixeira, in whatever condition, has to be considered a plus. They’ve been running out of bodies, and when Teixeira went down — the third first baseman to do so — the Yankees were forced to rush Ref snyder, who never played the position before having to sub for the injured Teixeira midway through a game June 3.
On Friday night, Refsnyder played his 15th game at first base, matching the total he’s had at second base in the majors. And the manager’s confidence in him apparently has grown. Not only has Girardi been using him against righthanded pitchers — with the lefty-swinging Ike Davis on the roster — Ref snyder batted in the coveted No. 2 spot Friday night and drove in the go-ahead run.
Refsnyder slipped to .286 with the 1-for-4 night, but in 21 games, he has eight RBIs — Teixeira had 12 in 48 — and mostly while under the stress of learning a new position. It’s one thing to have a quiet tutorial in quiet Scranton before a few thousand people. And quite another to be doing it wearing pinstripes, hoping to prove you belong in the majors.
“You just try to focus on playing the best you can,” Refsnyder said. “Nothing’s guaranteed here, especially with this team. So to think about that kind of stuff, it’d be pretty distracting.”
At least the Yankees know they have a competent insurance policy now for Teixeira, and maybe even a better option, from what we’ve seen so far.