- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer as he made his return to the New York Yankees lineup Monday against Boston after missing 30 of the team's past 31 games with a Grade 1 calf strain. The slugger batted fifth and played his customary first base as the Yankees beat Boston 10-2 in the first game of their final series of the year.
"Didn't really know what to expect but it was a great game all around," Teixeira said. "Not having to test it this early, I'd love to get some games under my belt and then if I have to beat out a double play or stretch a single into a double later I'll definitely feel better about it."
In his first at-bat, Teixeira struck out, but he swatted his 24th homer of the year in his second at-bat in the second inning to give the Yankees a 9-0 lead. He later walked in the fifth and flew out to center before Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled him from the game. Teixeira now has 20 RBIs in 10 games against the Red Sox this season.
"I felt like I saw the ball really well today," Teixeira. "On the home run (I) put a really good swing on the ball."
Teixeira missed 10 games with a strained left calf spanning August into September, and aggravated the injury while trying to beat out a game-ending double play in a loss to Baltimore on Sept. 8. He said it feels much better coming back this time than when he rushed to get back into the lineup against Baltimore, and ultimately paid for coming back too soon.
The first baseman said he ran hard on the bases and played two intersquad games and a simulated game in his preparation to get ready for his action. He had a workout on Sunday and had to be cleared by doctors before he could get back into the lineup.
Teixeira said he wanted to play in the field Monday night so he could keep the muscle loose and warm and being designated hitter could hamper that. He added that he will be aware of how hard he's pushing himself while running the base paths.
"Hopefully there's no issues where if I have to go take it to another level, I really only have a couple levels, speed isn't really my game, but if I do need to leg out a double or score on a single from second base, that'll be a good test for me," Teixeira said.
The Yankees had gone 17-13 in the games Teixeira has missed and are now one game ahead of Baltimore for the division lead. Teixeira acknowledged the importance of getting in some work before the playoffs begin this week.
"I would want to come back and get my timing down anyway just for the playoffs," Teixeira said before the game when asked about returning because of the this series' significance. "Even if we had a big lead right now, I would probably would want to test it out anyway. It's important for me to come back and I feel good enough that I obviously hope not to re-injure it."
Girardi also announced that he changed his starting pitcher for Tuesday. Girardi will now start rookie David Phelps over the struggling Ivan Nova. Nova, who was the Yankees' No. 2 starter in last year's postseason, is 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA, while Phelps is 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA. On the year, Nova has made 28 starts compared to Phelps' 10.
"I'm sure he's disappointed. But that's OK, too. This is a game where you have to be productive on a consistent basis," Girardi said Monday. "We still have him in our plans, but right now he's just struggling a little bit."
Nova knew the move was possible given the way he was throwing.
"If I have to pitch out of the bullpen, I will do it," he said.
Teixeira's return marked just the second time since July 24 that he and Alex Rodriguez were both in the lineup. Rodriguez suffered a broken left hand that night and Teixeira's calf injury did not allow for the two to play together over the final two months of the season. Having both able to play will only deepen the Yankees lineup as they prepare for the playoffs.
Teixeira is batting .256 with 24 homers and 83 RBIs this year and seemed on pace for another 30-100 season before the injury cost him a considerable amount of time. In his absence, the Orioles have cut into the Yankees lead and forced a tie atop the division heading into Monday.
"I can't remember the last time we've had our full lineup healthy -- maybe the one game in Baltimore in September and then he left pretty quickly," Girardi said before the game. "It's nice to have him back in there, he's been an extremely productive hitter for us, outstanding first baseman, it's really good to have him."
The manager added that he expects Teixeira to give good at-bats and the Yankees are going to be cautious in making sure the first baseman holds up during the games.
"The one thing I told him was you haven't played in a while so if you start to feel that fatigue or anything, you need to let us know and we can make a change because we can't have this go the other way again," Girardi said.
ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley contributed to this report. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
2hAdam Lewis, Special to ESPN.com