Struggles continue for Teixeira at plate

Struggles continue for Teixeira at plate

The summary of Mark Teixeira's first 100 at-bats in pinstripes could have come last week, when in the span of three innings, the Yankees slugger experienced both the highs and lows of his season thus far.

It was on Wednesday when Teixeira cleared the bases with a three-run double, earning the eighth-inning adoration of a rain-soaked Yankee Stadium crowd, only to later sky a harmless outfield popup with the tying run 90 feet away.

As Teixeira returned to the bench in a soon-to-be-official loss to the Rays, he screamed and slammed his helmet four times against the new Yankee Stadium dugout railing, a rare display of emotion for a usually stoic and even-keeled player.

It has been pretty bad for Teixeira; he knows that. In fact, his first 100 at-bats as a Yankee were the least productive such span of his Major League career, prompting the club to ponder a lineup shift that was soon dismissed -- for now.

"I'm not where I want to be, obviously, but I can't change what happened in the first 100 at-bats of the season," Teixeira said on Sunday. "What I can do is try to work very hard and swing at good pitches, and try to drive in runs."

A .198 average is not exactly what the Yankees would have wanted Teixeira to showcase under Broadway's bright lights, not in the first year of an eight-year, $180 million contract.

But the power has been on with seven homers -- including two in New York's last two games -- and with Alex Rodriguez back in place as Teixeira's cleanup-hitter protection, the Yankees are confident a new beginning is close.

"We really believe that he is going to come out of it," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's the one that can get himself out of it, in a sense. It hasn't been totally non-productive, but he's had a tough 100 at-bats. Every hitter goes through it.

"I just think it becomes a bigger story when you sign with the New York Yankees, and there's expectations. But there's no doubt in our mind that he'll come out of it."

Teixeira enters the Yankees' three-game series against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre with four doubles and 17 RBIs in 28 games. But he has helped in other ways, ranking fifth in the American League with 21 walks -- though that may have been a byproduct of the A-Rod-free lineup the Yankees fielded 26 times.

"It's the singles in between that I haven't been getting," Teixeira said. "I just need to be better. I have to have better at-bats. Physically, I feel good, and the balls that I am hitting, I'm hitting good. I'm still drawing a walk here and there, but I just need to get more hits."

Teixeira missed time in April with a left wrist injury that eventually required a cortisone shot. With Rodriguez among the most prominent figures absent from the Yankees lineup, Teixeira hurried back and tried to shoulder the load.

It is during that time that hitting coach Kevin Long believes Teixeira may have acquired some bad habits, getting away from a line-drive-type swing in favor of an uppercut that produced soaring sky pellets, but little else. That adjustment has been a major point of focus in batting practice.

"It's one of those things where you don't want to get too complicated and clutter his brain too much," Long said. "He's obviously hit for a long time and had a very successful career to this point. He'll get going. It's just right now he's got to weather the storm, and so do I."

But now Rodriguez is back, albeit without his best timing. After Rodriguez wowed the Camden Yards crowd by belting a three-run homer on his first swing Friday, he was limited to just a single in 10 other at-bats. Still, his presence lengthens the order.

"When you have a full deck, a full lineup ... I know that having guys like Johnny [Damon], Jeet [Derek Jeter] and Tex in front of me helps me," Rodriguez said. "And I know that having a guy like [Hideki] Matsui swinging the bat also helps me. I think it's going to be very helpful for all of us."

Teixeira wants to think that having Rodriguez in place will eventually begin to pay dividends and change the lineup.

"Maybe a few more fastballs, I'm hoping," Teixeira said. "Once Alex knocks the rust off and starts to hit balls all over the park, this entire offense is going to benefit, and that's what we're looking forward to."

Girardi is cautious of heaping too much responsibility on Rodriguez, for fear of portraying him as some sort of savior. Indeed, unless he begins to pitch and wear shin guards, he cannot answer all of the Yankees' problems. But his shadow may nudge Teixeira in the right direction.

"Look, Tex is going to be fine," Rodriguez said. "Tex is a great player and he's been for a long time. I have the utmost confidence that he's going to have a tremendous year this year. I think I will help him out, and I think he will help me out. I think collectively we'll be very good together."

That makes them all the more eager to have Teixeira contribute, which is part of the reason Girardi has resisted juggling the lineup.

"The guy that's going to turn it around is Mark Teixeira," Girardi said. "This is how we envision our lineup. We've played [three] games with our lineup somewhat how we envisioned it, and we're still short a catcher and a right fielder.

"The last thing I want to do is just start moving people all around. That's something that we had so many injuries last year, and we had to do that. We're trying to get some consistency and get everyone going."

Prepared for that responsibility, Teixeira said that he has been eager to hammer out a consistent fix, which he hopes he and Long will be able to finally secure in Toronto.

"That's what Kevin is there for, and we're working on it," Teixeira said. "He's seen a few little things here and there, and we're just grinding it every day."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.