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Mark Teixeira: ‘Guys Here Enjoy, Thrive On Pressure’

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(Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)

Mark Teixeira played 156+ games six times in a seven-year stretch from 2005-11.

The last three years, however, haven’t been as smooth. Teixeira played in 123 games in 2012, just 15 in 2013 and just 84 this season. He’ll even miss Thursday’s game after injuring his left pinkie in a play at the plate in the Yankees’ 5-1 over the Tigers on Wednesday.

What’s it been like for the 34-year-old first baseman to deal with these physical frailties?

“It’s humbling. It definitely is,” Teixeira said on The John Feinstein Show. “I’ve always said this: Baseball is a game that, if you haven’t been humbled, you’ll be humbled real quick. During the season, you’re going to go through ups and downs, and every time you think that you’re the greatest player in the league, you go 0-for-15 in a series. The same can be said for a career. I’ve been very blessed to be healthy for most of my career, and the last two years have obviously been a struggle health-wise. But you just try to be out there for your team whenever you can.”

Sometimes injuries are just a natural part of aging; other times, they’re dumb luck. With Teixeira, they likely have more to do with the former than the latter.

“I think it’s just the natural progression of a guy who’s played hard his entire career,” he said. “I’m kind of one of those max-effort guys. Anyone who’s seen me play baseball never used the word ‘smooth’ when I’m out there diving around or running around the bases or running into the stands or getting in the home-plate collisions with catchers. I’ve always been a guy who’s played really hard. I played through injuries early in my career, (but) those things start to catch up to you a little bit.”

Teixeira, who is in the midst of his season with the Yankees, has seen a lot of great players come and go during his time in the Bronx: Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and, after this year, Derek Jeter.

“These guys didn’t stop playing because they didn’t like baseball anymore,” Teixeira said. “They didn’t stop playing because they didn’t care about the game. They stopped playing because their bodies told them it was time to go – and that’s a part of the game that everyone has to come to at some point.”

Teixeira, to his credit, has played well when he’s been in the lineup. He has 19 home runs and 52 RBIs – which, extrapolated over a 162-season, would equate to 37 home runs and 100 RBIs. He’s also helped the Yankees (59-54 entering play Aug. 7) stay in the playoff race. New York is five games back of Baltimore (64-49) in the AL East and just a game back of the Blue Jays (61-64) in the Wild Card standings.

Given all the injuries the Yankees have endured this season, that’s pretty impressive.

“There’s something special about putting on the pinstripes,” Teixeira said. “You just expect to win. If you’re an average player, it maybe makes you a little bit above average. If you’re a good player, maybe it makes you a great player. There’s just something about playing at Yankee Stadium and having the expectations. Most guys thrive on (that pressure). The guys that I’ve played with here all love playing in New York. They enjoy the pressure. They enjoy being out there and having so many people that care about every single game.”

Teixeira was also asked about Anthony Bosch, who surrendered to the Drug Enforcement Administration this week for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal that resulted in more than a dozen suspensions from the commissioner’s office last year.

“I don’t know if I was naive as a kid or as a young fan,” Teixeira began. “I broke into the league in 2003, and it was at the tail end of the height of the Steroid Era. I was just naive. I didn’t understand it until I got in the game. I was a big, strong guy in college (at Georgia Tech): 6-3, 220 pounds, hitting home runs – and I got in the clubhouse (in the majors) and I was one of the smallest guys. And I’m saying, ‘This isn’t right.’ So I didn’t understand it. I didn’t really understand the Steroid Era until I got into the game. It’s very disappointing as a player.”

Teixeira admitted he feels anger toward the players who cheated.

For the record, his pseudo-teammate, Alex Rodriguez, was at the center of the Biogenesis scandal.

“You just want to talk about the game,” Teixeira said. “I love watching the game. I love the intricacies of baseball. (But) we can’t get past (all the steroid talk). So it’s very disappointing.”

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