Coming into the season the Yankees really didn’t know what to expect from the right side of the infield. First baseman Mark Teixeira was coming off a lost season in which he appeared in just fifteen games after suffering a wrist injury during the World Baseball Classic that would eventually require surgery. Brian Roberts was coming off a lost half-decade. He had not appeared in 80 games in a single season since 2009. However, both were presumably healthy entering the season.
The pair were a joke for the first few weeks of the season. Teixeira promptly went on the DL after four games with a leg injury. Roberts looked lost at plate and was not hitting at all. On the day Teixeira was activated from the DL, April 20, Roberts was hitting only .156. Since that day however, the pair have been powering the Yankee offense along with Yangervis Solarte and Jacoby Ellsbury. In that span, Teixeira has eight home runs and sixteen RBIs. Roberts has 19 hits in his last 20 games and has raised his average to a respectable .256.
Because Teixeira and Roberts are both switch hitters, they are integral cogs in the Yankee lineup. The need to be able to hit from both sides to protect the other hitters in the lineup from seeing only lefties or righties late in games. Teixeira is also a major run producer in the middle of the lineup. It is his job to drive in runners like Ellsbury, Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner.
Roberts is needed to be a catalyst at the bottom of lineup and help turn the lineup over. He has also been showing some speed on the bases, recording two triples against the Mets on Wednesday night. He is also third on the team in stolen bases behind Ellsbury and Gardner.
The success over last few weeks by both Teixeira and Roberts has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees. Teixeira is a notorious slow starter and was coming off major wrist surgery last season. When Blue Jay Jose Bautista underwent a similar procedure in 2012, it took him over a full year for his power stroke to return. For Teixeira its seems as if the power has returned much quicker. He has three home runs in his last five games and eight in his last eighteen. He currently is in the top ten in the American League in home runs despite missing two weeks while on the DL.
However, while Teixeira’s success has been a surprise, the play of Roberts has has been completely out of nowhere. Only the sudden rise of Solarte has been as foreign a concept as Roberts being a major contributor to this team. Solarte, after spending the last eight years in the minors without so much as a September call up, is leading the American League in hitting. And his meteoric rise might have been just the jolt needed by the aging second baseman. Roberts knew that the Yankees are going to play Solarte as long as he hits, and Solarte had no intention of stopping.
The Yankees also had Kelly Johnson presumably moving back to third base as Teixeira returned. So Roberts needed to hit and quickly or he would find himself doing more watching than playing. He responded in a big way, staving off Johnson and forcing the Yankees to play Solarte at third.
Both Teixeira and Roberts may be playing on borrowed time at the moment. They are aging, injury prone veterans. Teixeira was complaining of fatigue, tired legs and a tight groin earlier in the week. However, hopefully the Yankees can ride the hot bats they are swinging at the moment to some wins. The lineup will need to score a lot of runs over the next few weeks with the starting rotation in shambles.