NEW YORK — In his tearful retirement announcement, Mark Teixeira vowed to be a New York Yankees fan forever.
He played the role even while playing first base Friday night.
In the first game of what has now become a two-month retirement tour for the 36-year-old Teixeira, 23-year-old Gary Sanchez caught in the major leagues for the first time. He threw out the first two runners who tried to steal against him and helped coax Michael Pineda through six innings of the Yankees’ 13-7 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
“That arm,” Teixeira said, sounding every bit like a fan. “That’s a special arm. There’s not going to be many guys trying to steal off him if he throws like that.
“I’m looking forward to watching him play the rest of the season.”
Teixeira and the Yankees would like you to believe these next two months are about more than just saying goodbye to a first baseman who played for the most recent Yankees team to win a World Series and watching kids who might someday play for the next one. They still talk about the importance of winning games, even though Friday’s victory lifted the Yankees to just a single game over .500.
But the Yankees made their decision on this season last week, and Friday night Andrew Miller sat in the visiting bullpen in left field rather than in the Yankees’ bullpen in right field.
“I’m excited to see him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, when someone asked about Miller’s return in an Indians uniform. “I’m not excited to see him in a game.”
Miller didn’t appear Friday night, because the Yankees led all the way. They opened a 6-0 margin on Starlin Castro‘s third-inning grand slam and extended it with the help of eight walks by Indians pitchers.
Teixeira had one of those walks and two of the 16 Yankees hits, continuing a month in which he has reached base 12 times in 17 plate appearances. His two hits Friday raised his average to .202, the first time since mid-May he has been over .200.
Girardi vowed to play Teixeira as often as the first baseman’s beat-up body can take it. He also vowed to keep putting Sanchez behind the plate, even though the Yankees also have Brian McCann and Austin Romine on their active roster.
“He’s going to catch,” Girardi said, leaving open the possibility he would have Sanchez behind the plate again Saturday afternoon.
On a Yankees team looking to the future, that makes sense. Sanchez showed off the arm that has excited the Yankees, throwing out Jason Kipnis in the first inning and Mike Napoli in the second. Girardi sounded impressed, and not just by the throws.
“I didn’t see him get flustered,” Girardi said. “I didn’t see him get emotional.”
Teixeira got plenty emotional in his afternoon news conference, and during the game he got a taste of what the next two months could be like.
“A lot of the Indians players and the umpires came up and congratulated me,” he said. “It was nice to get that ovation [from the fans], and to be able to come through for them.”
The Yankees fans saluted Teixeira Friday night. Soon enough, he’ll be one of them.