Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira has started just one game since fouling a ball off his shin two weeks ago and manager Joe Girardi revealed today that there’s no timetable for his return because the team now thinks the injury is more serious than initially believed.
Girardi told reporters that Teixeira will be on crutches for at least “a few days” and it’s certainly starting to sound like the Yankees fear he may be sidelined for a significant period of time. Girardi expressed optimism that he’ll play again this season, saying it’s a “deep bone bruise” but no fracture was found.
Teixeira has had a tremendous bounceback season, staying healthy enough to play 109 of the Yankees’ first 117 games while hitting .255 with 31 homers and a .906 OPS. He made his first All-Star team since 2009, which is also the last time he topped a .900 OPS.
Rookie Greg Bird has been the primary first baseman in Teixeira’s absence, hitting .250 with two homers and a .721 OPS through 16 games at age 22. Alex Rodriguez seeing time at first base is another option for Girardi, who could then use Carlos Beltran at designated hitter and free up an outfield spot.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.