Earlier this week, New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira was cleared for baseball activity with a hopeful slated return of June 1st. While he won’t be the first of the barrage of injured players to come off the disabled list, his reemergence is the most important to the Yankees in the coming weeks.
When Teixeira sustained his wrist injury during Spring Training, newly acquired Kevin Youkilis, who was originally intended to help out on the opposite side of the infield for an injured Alex Rodriguez, was able to step in and take over some of the first base duties. Shortly before the regular season began in an effort to shore up the position until Teixeira returned, veteran Lyle Overbay was brought over as well.
With Youkilis currently on the 15-day disabled list for his back, Overbay is the only first baseman on the roster. Though Youkilis will be activated in a week or so, I still believe that it is paramount that Tex returns to first so Overbay can be the backup and Youkilis can go to third, sustaining a veteran presence with some power in the infield and the lineup.
What Teixeira brings to the team is twofold; while his offense can be explosive, it is his defensive game that is the most impressive. Teixeira is a five-time Gold Glove winner, but that doesn’t really tell the story. Anyone who watches the Yankees knows how he makes the tough plays day in and day out at first and makes them look routine. He is, at least in my mind, the best defensive first baseman in the game right now, and hopefully his wrist injury will not impact his ability to remain at that level of play. Overbay is an extremely competent first baseman, but a healthy Teixeira is far better.
The sooner Tex can come back, although of course without rushing his return, the better. It is common knowledge that Tex often has trouble heating up in the beginning of the season, with many stagnant Aprils that turn into productive Mays and Junes. The sooner he comes back, the sooner he can get his adjustment period out of the way and start to factor in to the lineup in a major way.
Teixeira is a switch hitter who hit ten home runs off lefties last year, and his versatility at the plate can help this Yankees team which at times seems to be overly left handed and short handed against lefty pitching.
The Yankees need Teixeira back in order to carry their current success through the late spring months. He is consistent hitter who routinely racks up at least 20 homers and 100 RBI per season, and to add that back into the lineup coupled with his superior defense will hopefully pay immediate dividends. As long as he is at full strength when he comes back and doesn’t take too long to start hitting, he could be the player who, when activated, takes the Yankees up another level.
There is no official date, only a hopeful timetable for his return. But he has begun taking swings off a tee, and will hopefully go down to Tampa to begin rehabbing soon. Hopefully sooner rather than later.