Tex: Can't play through the dings anymore

July, 28, 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mark Teixeira took batting practice on the field Monday afternoon, ostensibly the final hurdle before he returns to the Yankees lineup after missing eight games -- assuming he does not pinch hit Monday night -- due to a lat strain.

But this should come as a shock to no one; Tex's days of playing 150-plus games a season, or even 125, are a thing of the past. The player who was once so durable he averaged 153 games a year for a stretch of nine straight seasons missed all but 15 games last season, and has already missed 29 games this season.

What's the difference?

As Teixeira admits, it's all about a three-letter word spelled A-G-E.

"I was injured plenty, I just played through it," Teixeira said of his first nine years, five of which were spent here in Arlington with the Rangers. "I can’t play through them anymore. That’s just the fact of the matter. The guys ask me, ‘How did you play in Texas for five years, 100 degrees every night?’ I was young. I was a kid. I played through everything."

[+] EnlargeMark Teixeira
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsFather Time has caught up to Mark Teixeira over the past two seasons.
Teixeira recited a litany of injuries he suffered from 2003-08 -- ankle surgery, quad tear, knee surgery -- without missing major playing time.

"That’s just the way it is when you’re young," said Teixeira, who turned 34 years old in April. "I can’t play through those things [now]. I don’t think I would have had to miss games with back spasms. I don’t think I would have missed games with the little tweak of my hamstring earlier in the season. Now I just can’t get through those anymore. Father Time is undefeated.”

Teixeira acknowledged he will need some "maintenance" to get through the remaining 56 games of the season, assuming he is able to return to the lineup on Tuesday.

"At a certain point, you hit a wall," he said. "I hit a wall last year, and hopefully I won’t have a lot of these, but if they do pop up, it’s just harder to play through it. There’s two ways to look at it: play until something hurts or you take days off, but you never want to take days off when you’re healthy. And I think that’s kind of baseball. You play until you can’t play.”

Teixeira, who leads the team in home runs (17) and RBIs (48), has not played since July 20, and was marred in an 0-for-13 slump at the time of his back injury. Still, the Yankees have missed his switch-hitting power bat in the middle of their lineup, and his glove at first base, where Brian McCann has given it a game effort with mixed results.

"We did OK in his absence [the Yankees were 4-3 minus Teixeira before Monday's game]," manager Joe Girardi said. "But I sure would have liked to have had him. It puts another power hitter and an outstanding first baseman [in the lineup]. It’s a much different look."

Teixeira did some light hitting in the indoor cage at Yankee Stadium on Sunday and pronounced himself "very happy."

"The back spasms are gone, which I’ve been dealing with for a long time, so that’s really good," Teixeira said. "I feel better now than I’ve felt in over a month. That’s definitely a good sign."

Girardi said it was possible Teixeira would be available to pinch hit Monday, if needed.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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Masahiro Tanaka
13 2.77 141 136
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146