TAMPA — Mark Teixeira attacked his body during the winter and wound up changing the vibe in his head. Now we will see if that transports the Yankees first baseman back to the player he used to be.
Last summer, in the midst of a second straight pain-filled season, Teixeira muttered words that raised eyebrows from the clubhouse to the front office.
The switch-hitting first baseman warned he might never be the player he once was because of the injuries.
“Last year was really, really difficult, physically and mentally,’’ said Teixeira, who was limited to 123 games due to a lingering right wrist problem as well as a back injury. “I felt like garbage all season. When you are feeling like that and trying to perform, you get beaten down and you wonder, ‘Am I ever going to be the same?’ This offseason I asked my body to do a lot of things, and it responded. That’s the exciting thing, everything I wanted to accomplish I did, and I feel great going into the season.’’
After talking to Darien, Conn.-based trainer Ben Prentiss — who works with many NHL players — Teixeira started what he calls the “No Fun Diet.’’
“No gluten, no dairy, no sugar,’’ Teixeira said of the diet Prentiss suggested to curb the inflammation running through Teixeira’s body. “We attacked all those things I have been having and I got myself really strong. I feel really strong. I was weaker than I had ever been in my entire career last year.’’
According to Teixeira, he lost 13 pounds of fat and added 15 pounds of muscle.
“I told my trainer I had three cortisone shots in the wrist and two in the back, and he said it sounds like you have a lot of inflammation in there,’’ said Teixeira, who worked out at the South Norwalk Fieldhouse. “Hopefully, taking care of those types of things, the aches and pains and inflammation in the joints go away.’’
Teixeira, who turns 35 in April, will make $22.5 million this year and next season in the final installments of an eight-year, $180 million deal. While much of the focus will be on a suspect Yankees rotation, there are questions about the lineup as well.
“We have talent here. A lot of teams would love to have our roster. If healthy, we can win a World Series,’’ Teixeira said.
In order for that to happen, Teixeira has to turn back the clock at least to 2011, when he swatted 39 homers and drove in 111 games despite batting .248 in 156 games. The next year, Teixeira missed 30 games due to a calf strain. In 2013, he appeared in 15 games due to a wrist injury suffered during spring training that required surgery. Last year, the wrist and back problems limited Teixeira to 123 games in which he hit .216 with 22 homers, 62 RBIs and posted a .711 OPS.
“I love the challenge. Last year in spring training I hoped to have a good year because I didn’t know where I was. I wasn’t feeling great and I wasn’t 100 percent,’’ Teixeira said. “This year I expect to have a great year. That’s the challenge I am looking forward to this year. Staying healthy is very important.’’
Despite the shrinking power numbers, Teixeira still expects to hit 30 homers and drive in 100 runs. And he isn’t going to try to guide balls to the left side of the infield to beat the defensive shifts he will see batting left-handed.
“Every time I try to slap balls the other way, it doesn’t go well for anybody,’’ Teixeira said. “That’s exactly what the other team wants, a middle-of-the-order power hitter and turn him into a slap hitter. If I can hit more home runs and more doubles that takes care of the shift.’’
Not to mention fill a void in the middle of a lineup that has a lot of questions that need to be answered in a positive way for the Yankees to have a chance at extending the season into October.
February 25, 2015 | 1:09pm