With the New York Yankees set to run out their new-and-improved lineup on opening day, it’s a familiar face that may be the most important piece to the unit’s success.
Since Mark Teixeira‘s arrival in the Bronx in 2009, he has been a formidable presence in the middle of the Yankees order. Whether he’s hitting in the third, fourth or fifth spot in the lineup, the first baseman has been relied on to drive in runs and protect the hitters in front of him. Teixeira played just 15 games in 2013 and his absence from the middle of the order ran parallel with the Bombers offensive struggles. The Yankees made quite a few additions to what should be one of the most feared lineups in baseball. Carlos Beltran is likely to fill the void left be Robinson Cano‘s departure from the third spot behind Derek Jeter along with new leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury. Brian McCann should fill in nicely batting cleanup or hitting fifth. The re-emergence of Teixeira as a premier run producer will deepen the order that much more. He will have protection as well as provide protection for other hitters regardless of where he is hitting in the lineup.
With all that said, it’s a long process for the switch-hitter who had just 53 at-bats last year, but went 1-for-2 with a double and a run scored in Saturday’s win over Houston. “I am knocking off rust. Two days ago it was just being out there,’’ Teixeira said after Saturday’s game. “Going after foul balls and coming in on bunts, things like that. I am continuing to knock off rust and get my legs in shape.” While Tex does not want to push himself too far due to fear of a set-back, he hopes to be driving the ball by opening day. “If I do a little too extra I can feel it getting tired and a little sore, but its nothing un-natural. It’s the progression that I am making,” said Teixeira. He also mentioned the importance of facing a righty and a lefty in the same game.
Teixeira is on track to be the Yankees starting first baseman opening day as well as resuming his place in the middle of a lineup that is full of sluggers. Having number 25 in the heart of the order will make the lineup that much more difficult on opposing pitching staffs.