Coming into Spring Training the New York Yankees had no backup plan for first baseman Mark Teixeira. The veteran slugger is recovering from off-season wrist surgery and is admittedly coming along slowly. "I am really knocking off rust. I'm just continuing to knock off rust, get my legs in shape, try and see a lot of pitches," Teixeira said. As Tex continues to get into game shape, the Yankees are looking to their own roster for depth. Many fans thought the Yanks would sign a veteran first baseman as insurance for Big Tex. They've decided to go in a different direction, to use what they have. Kelly Johnson got his first start at first base on Sunday in Spring Training and Alfonso Soriano could be next.
Although Johnson has been tabbed as the likely starter at third base, he has been getting comfortable with the idea of playing first. Johnson spoke with Teixeira about the footwork need to play first. The versatile infielder is open to spelling Texeira, but doesn't think it will be a permanent move. "I told Tex he's got 162," Johnson said. You never know how it's going to play out. You guys know, after last year here, you just can't really predict stuff, I'm not going to worry about it, but I'm still going to get the early work and do what I need to do just in case." Johnson admitted that he is open to the idea of learning and developing at first, if it's what the team needs him to do. "I think it's just picking up the speed of the game at those spots. You're closer. Any time it's new, your mind is kind of moving fast. Third base has already started to slow down a little bit more. I'm feeling better."
With Johnson aboard at first, Teixeira is taking it slow this spring:
I don't want to try and overdo things in Spring Training and then not physically be ready for the season. I'm going to go in and out of 10 slumps this year, that's just the way it is. What you want to do is physically, you want to feel really good coming out of Spring Training into Opening Day and get enough at bats — 50 or 55 at bats — to feel you're comfortable. That's what Spring Training is about, getting your body ready for a long season.
The Yankees are also considering giving veteran Alfonso Soriano time at first. "He's played infield. It'll give us a chance to DH someone besides one of our outfielders at times. It's just having more flexibility more than anything else. Since we don't really have one DH, (playing Soriano at first) allows us to DH more people. We can do that," Yankee manager Joe Girardi said. Girardi shot down any ideas of Soriano making a return to second base. "No that never really crossed our mind." Soriano brought his first base glove with him down to Tampa, just in case he gets the call.
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