After suffering a pair of ugly losses to the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday and Saturday night, the New York Yankees will likely get some help when they try to rebound in the series finale. Mark Teixeira, who has been on the disabled list since April 4 with a strained right hamstring, is set to return to the Yankees’ lineup on Sunday.
The team has performed fairly well in his absence, going 8-6 in the 14 games he’s missed. But, the Yankees are simply a much better team when their power hitting first baseman is in the lineup.
While it will likely take some at-bats for Teixeira to get his timing back, just his presence in the lineup makes the Yankees a much deeper offensive team.
Having him back in the middle of the order gives Joe Girardi the option to return Jacoby Ellsbury to the leadoff spot, and move Brett Gardner down in the lineup. Or Girardi can choose to leave Ellsbury in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, and have Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano as the team’s six and seven hitters.
Either way the Yankees’ lineup becomes much harder to get through with the addition of Teixeira.
The 12-year veteran should also help provide defensive stability in the Yankees infield. Kelly Johnson is capable of filling in occasionally at first base, but is simply not an everyday first baseman.
This was showcased in the bottom of the first inning of Saturday night’s game when Matt Joyce hit a groundball to the left of Johnson. He made the diving effort to grab a ball that would have easily been fielded by second baseman Brian Roberts. And with Johnson on the ground, and no one around to cover first, Joyce reached with an infield single.
These are the types of mistakes a veteran first baseman like Teixeira does not make.
And with first base now occupied, Johnson can move back to third base, a position he is much more comfortable at. This also allows the Yankees to make Yangervis Solarte the everyday second baseman, and move Roberts to a bench role. Playing the injury-prone Roberts less in the early going could help preserve him for the later months of the season.
Having power bats like Soriano, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann puts less pressure on the Teixeira to be the 30 home-run hitter he once was. But, there is no denying that the Yankees are still significantly better with him on the field, and that is why the team needs him to put together a healthy 2014 campaign.