Commentary

Teixeira beginning latest May hit parade

As the calendar turns, Yankees slugger heats up at the plate

Updated: May 4, 2010, 10:39 AM ET
By Rob Parker | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- How can you tell it's May without looking at a calendar?

No, not by the warm weather. And baby, it was hot at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The real answer is that Mark Teixeira has finally started hitting.

Almost like clockwork, Teixeira, a notoriously slow starter, usually starts hitting after the first month of the season.

Teixeira hit and hit and hit and hit in the Yankees' 12-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox. In all, he went 4-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Tex now has six hits in eight May at-bats after having just 11 hits in 22 April games.

"I like that start to May," said Teixeira, who tied his career high for hits in a game. "The biggest thing for me is helping the team win. Whether it's grinding through a few at-bats and drawing some walks to score runs or getting some big hits and driving in some runs, I just want to contribute to this team.

"The first two days of May have been good."

Sure, the Yankees (16-8) have been able to win a lot early on without much help from Teixeira, the 29-year-old switch hitter. But ultimately, if this team has dreams of repeating as champions, they need production from the man who was an absolute machine after April last season.

Because of his bad hitting last April, most expected that the same thing would happen this season as well.

Still, it's such a weird thing to watch. But then again, baseball is filled with things that simply don't add up. It doesn't make sense that such an accomplished hitter could struggle like Teixeira has the last two Aprils in Da Bronx.

Last year, he batted .200 with three homers and 10 RBIs in the first month. But then, almost like flicking on a switch or turning a page on a calendar, he becomes the feared hitter we all know he is.

That's what he looked like against the White Sox as he ripped the ball all over the field. The only time he was retired was in the first inning, when he took a called third strike from Sox starter (and loser) Mark Buehrle.

"It was nice to see," said right fielder Nick Swisher about Teixeira's breakout game. "It's a different month.

"It happened exactly the same last year."

The only difference was that the Yankees got off to a slow start in 2009 and Teixeira was the mega-bucks free agent in his first year with the club. Some were starting to wonder if Teixeira could handle the pressure of playing on the biggest stage in sports, and produce at a high level that matched his contract. "You guys got all over him early in the year," Swisher said to reporters. "And then he raked and you guys didn't say nothing to him the rest of the year. So let's just do the same again."

From May 8, when Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup, through the end of the season, Teixeira batted .310 with 34 homers and 107 RBIs. The Yankees were 88-43 in those games.

"I hit the ball hard pretty much every time up and they fell," said Teixeira, who entered Sunday's game batting a woeful .153 with two homers and 10 RBIs. "That's good."

It couldn't come at a better time. Curtis Granderson will be out for probably a month. And although Granderson was struggling, he had power and still represented a missing bat from the lineup.

Still, the old adage applies to Teixeira. It's not how you start, but how you finish. After that brutal start, Teixeira went on to lead the AL in RBIs with 122 and tied Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena for the lead in home runs (39) in 2009.

At the end of the day, Teixeira's track record is just too good to worry about him. It's hard, though, not to be perplexed.

Manager Joe Girardi, like many others, sure is. "I wish I knew," Girardi said. "He's a guy who has gotten off to slow starts in his career. Does it become mental? I can't tell you.

"But it's something that has happened fairly consistent."

Teixeira said it best, "No one's going to judge the team or me after just one month."

Clearly, that would be a mistake. Just ask the White Sox.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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