When Mark Teixeira takes his first step out of the batter’s box or moves laterally for a grounder, Joe Girardi says he will hold his breath more than he would like.
That’s a natural reaction when your injury-prone, $180-million first baseman plays his first major league game after rehabbing torn articular cartilage in his right knee.
“At any point, you worry that it could come back,” Girardi said. “We’ll just have to watch him carefully.”
Girardi’s vigilant eye absorbed more than Teixeira’s statline revealed in his return from the disabled list Saturday. The 36-year-old went 0-for-3 with a walk in the Yankees’ 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins at the Stadium, but the performance — particularly Teixeira’s 10-pitch at-bat that ended in an eighth-inning strikeout — encouraged Girardi.
“I thought he grinded out some at-bats,” Girardi said. “He had the walk. He had a good at-bat the last at-bat. Obviously, you hope for a different result, but I thought it was a good at-bat and he looked good.”
The Yankees placed Teixeira on the disabled list on June 4, the morning after he exited a 6-5 loss to the Orioles in the third inning. Teixeira, who also battled neck spasms during this season’s first two months and averaged 83 games in the previous three years, was hitting .180 with a .271 on-base percentage and .263 slugging percentage. He had only three home runs, the last of which he hit April 13.
Teixeira sounded optimistic that the three weeks off will solve his injury problems and enhance his productivity for a team that entered Saturday 22nd in the majors with 301 runs.
“I think we all know what I’m capable of when I’m healthy and producing, so that’s what we’re all hoping for,” said Teixeira, a career .270 hitter with 397 home runs. “It’s been a tough couple of first months, not playing as many games as I’d like and not being as healthy as I’d like, but hopefully the second half is going to be different.”
Teixeira said he felt general postgame soreness after playing three games and going 1-for-9 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and that he will continue icing his knee as a remedy if that persists. But he added that he plans to take cortisone shots during the All-Star break and, if needed, later in the season.
“We don’t really know what to expect,” he said.
To activate Teixeira, the Yankees designated Ike Davis for assignment. Rob Refsnyder will serve as Teixeira’s primary backup.
“I don’t see us running [Teixeira] out there four or five days in a row right at the beginning here,” Girardi said, “so we’ll have to watch Tex closely and use Ref.”
Even if his return to a regular workload comes gradually, Teixeira was encouraged by his comfort level playing a full game at Scranton.
“That’s important, being on your feet for three hours and cutting back and forth at first base and fielding some grounders and running down the line a few times,” Teixeira said. “That’s what kind of showed that hopefully I can get through a full game and multiple days in a row.”
They might hold their breath, but the Yankees will be watching closely, hoping to see Teixeira return to form.
“He’s been productive all his career, so . . . it’s good to have him back,” Carlos Beltran said. “He’s one of the best defenders at first base, and hopefully he’s capable of getting into the rhythm and getting the timing and start putting good at-bats. It would be good to see that.”
1 K, 1 W
.176 season BA