Thursday, May 1, 2014

Teixeira Trying To Get Back On Track

Teixeira's trying to put a pair of disappointing seasons behind him (CBS)
The 2012 season had been a tough one for Mark Teixeira even before a calf strain sent him to the Disabled List in late August, causing him to miss all but one game in September and 30 of his team's final 34 games. Besides dealing with his customary slow start (.686 April OPS), Tex also battled severe bronchial congestion and wrist inflammation throughout the season. Though he returned in time for New York's postseason run he wasn't the same, managing just one extra base hit and one RBI as the Yankees bowed out in the League Championship Series.

Not surprisingly, the then 32-year old Teixeira had his worst season since his rookie year, and his worst since becoming a member of the Yankees. Tex finished the season having played 123 games, the fewest of his career. His 24 home runs and 84 RBI set career lows in addition to snapping his string of eight consecutive seasons with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. He received his fifth Gold Glove award for strong defense at first base, but it was little consolation for his otherwise disappointing season. Yankee fans and Teixeira were hopeful he would bounce back in 2013.

Alas, it was not to be. 2013 turned out to be a lost season for Teixeira (and the Yankees, who missed the playoffs for only the second time in 20 years). Tex strained his wrist in early March and didn't make it back until May 31st. His return was short-lived, though, as he re-aggravated the injury two weeks later and went back on the Disabled List. He opted for wrist surgery and was shut down for the season, one of many Yankee stars along with Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, and Derek Jeter to barely see the field in 2013.

Teixeira's outlook for 2014 was decidedly less optimistic. Few expected the 34 year-old to return to form, especially given the severe decline he experienced before injuries began ravaging his career. Wrist injuries in particular are tricky and can permanently alter a player's swing, leading some to fear that he would never be the same. He was, at the very least, a very big question mark in an infield full of question marks.

Those fears were exacerbated by Teixeira's abysmal spring training performance (.403 OPS) in which he looked utterly over-matched at the plate. Then, only four games into the regular season, Teixeira found himself on the DL again--this time with a strained hamstring. Another setback on the road to recovery. His entire body, it seemed, was failing him.

Thankfully, Teixeira made a speedy recovery and spent the minimum time on the DL. His power and batting eye appear to have returned, as he has three home runs and seven walks in his eight games back. As long as he anchors New York's lineup by tallying plenty of both, nobody's going to complain about the two-time All-Star's $22.5 million salary.

Like Albert Pujols, another talented, extremely well-paid 34 year-old first baseman who was written off after consecutive down years, Teixeira is going about the business of resuming his Hall of Fame career. He still has a long season ahead of him, but so far, at least, the early returns are promising.

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