On a rainy night nearly five months ago, Mark Teixeira crumpled to the ground with a hamstring that was torn to shreds. It was the worst possible ending for a year that saw the Yankee first baseman’s batting average tumble to a career-worst .256.
Slow starts have been standard during Teixeira’s two seasons in pinstripes. In the first month of 2009, he batted .200 but still wound up leading the league in homers and RBIs. A year later, he batted a ghastly .136.
Serious adjustments were needed, so he put down the weights and hit the cage — hard.
The extra work calls for Big Tex to drive outside pitches to the gap in left-center field or through vacated spots in the infield shift.
“One thing that I’ve always been proud of is that I stayed strong during the season,” he said. “There are a lot of guys that go out there and have great first halves. Then the dog days of summer get you, and they completely lose their strength, and their numbers go downhill. I’ve been the opposite. I’ve always gotten better as the season has gone on.”
Now, Teixeira wants to start strong and stay there.
“He’s trying to get that monkey off his back, that April isn’t a good month for him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I think he has a real good opportunity to do it.”
Teixeira isn’t the only Bomber re-launching this spring. Derek Jeter will try to prove last year’s career-worst .270 was a fluke and the new adjustments to his mechanics will return things to normal.
The “rehab of Jeter’s swing” consists of not lifting his left foot and not striding to avoid getting tied up on inside pitches. The goal is to avoid pounding the ball into the ground and hitting into double plays. The tweaks produced a .321 spring average (17-for-53).
The adjustment has been a gradual process for Jeter, who turns 37 in June. Hitting coaches suggested cutting down on the strides during a September series in Texas, and following a strong finish, eliminating it with the goal of pulling the ball more. That should help up his RBI total (67 in 2010).
“This isn’t the first time I made an adjustment,” Jeter said. “It’s the first time it’s gotten a lot of attention, but this is something that happens throughout the years. It’s going to take a while before you’re 100 percent comfortable with it, but you still think about things.”