Monday, April 4, 2011

Teixeira's homer binge propels Yanks to 2-1 start

(photo courtesy of

To say Mark Teixeira struggled last April would be an understatement. Teixeira has always been a slow starter, but his .136 batting average, two home runs and nine RBI marked the worst April of his career.

This season, Teixeira homered in all three of the Yankees games in their opening series against Detroit and his RBI total (seven) is just two less than he had all of last April. If Teixeira can keep this momentum going, who's to say he can't contend for the American League MVP award?

Teixeira is widely known around the league as a second-half player but if he puts together an MVP-caliber first half, what will he do for an encore after the All-Star Break? This is the same player who finished second in the 2009 MVP balloting behind Twins catcher Joe Mauer after hitting .200 with three home runs and 10 RBI that April. He finished 2009 with 39 home runs and 122 RBI.

Combine a big season from Teixeira with Robinson Cano, who was third in MVP balloting last season and a healthy Alex Rodriguez and there is no lineup in baseball that can compete with the Yankees, both in the middle of the order and top to bottom. Not even Boston, who just finished getting swept by last year's AL champion Texas.

Other encouraging signs from Opening Weekend for the Yankees:

-A.J. Burnett had a strong outing on Saturday despite fighting a cold. He lasted just five innings and allowed three earned runs, but his six strikeouts compared to just one walk was very encouraging, especially after he struck out 11 and walked none in 13 spring innings.

If Burnett can bounce back and Phil Hughes can pitch like he did in the first half of 2010, the Yankees rotation come playoff time won't be as bad as most people think. Hughes will need to bounce back from allowing two home runs to Miguel Cabrera in his next turn, but more importantly he needs to regain the 2-3 miles per hour he's lost on his fastball.

-The bullpen looks dominant. And with the question marks surrounding New York's rotation, their relievers will be key this season. The combination of Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera is baseball's best in the eighth and ninth innings and if Joba Chamberlain can pitch up to his potential in the seventh, the Yankees can turn most of their games into six-inning affairs for opposing lineups.

-Russell Martin looks fresh and Jorge Posada looks locked in at DH. Martin is hitting the ball well and even stole third base on Opening Day, showing signs that he can tap into some of the potential he showed in his first three major league seasons.

Posada had two homers in Sunday's game and without the wear and tear of catching five times a week and an increase in at-bats, he could see a return to the 25-homer level he hasn't hit since 2003.

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