Teixeira, the ultimate everyday player
Has second-longest active MLB streak, nears Rangers record
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Rangers were at home on Tuesday but first baseman Mark Teixeira was not in the lineup.He sat out with a bruised knee and probably won't play again until Friday. It's all strictly precautionary and Teixeira could play if needed. That right there tells you this is Spring Training. The regular season is a different story. Bruised knees do not keep Teixeira out of the lineup. In fact, over the past 2 1/2 seasons, nothing has kept him out of the Rangers lineup. Teixeira has been in the Rangers lineup every day since May 20, 2004, when he missed consecutive games after getting hit in the left hand by a pitch. Since then he has played in 446 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest streak in club history and the second-longest active streak in the Major Leagues. "I always play," Teixeira said Tuesday morning before getting treatment for the knee. "If I'm hurting the team, I'm not going to play. But I can play through pain and I can play through sickness and that's what I've done the past 2 1/2 years." Teixeira needs to play in just 37 more games in a row to break the club record of 482 held by Alex Rodriguez. Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejeda has the longest active streak in the Major Leagues, having played in 1,080 consecutive games. "I take a lot of pride in the streak," Teixeira said. "I have a responsibility to my teammates and fans to go out and play. If I'm physically able to play, I'm going to play." Teixeira had one near-miss last year. He suffered a bad bruise catching a scorching line drive in the palm of his glove on April 11 against the Angels and was doubtful for the next day. But he made the lineup as the designated hitter, then went back to first base the following day and homered off of Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar. He is not immune to the general nagging ailments that all other ballplayers go through. He gets the flu, strains the occasional muscle and hits the stinging foul ball off his foot just like everybody else. He has been hit by a pitch 23 times in the last 446 games. But he keeps playing. "There have been a dozen days where I wake up and say, 'No way am I playing today,' " Teixeira said. "Then you get to the ballpark, get treatment, get your blood flowing and when the game starts, you're ready to go. At the same time, I've been very lucky not to have anything major. "I was reading an article on [Cleveland's] Travis Hafner. He got hit by a pitch and broke his hand. There's nothing you can do, there are going to be freak accidents."
Teixeira has actually had his share. A fractured right ankle cost him much of his junior year at Georgia Tech and he missed the first two months of his first professional season in 2002 when he ruptured a tendon in his left elbow chasing a foul popup in Spring Training. He also missed two weeks in April 2004 with a strained oblique muscle.But nothing lately. "With the way the game is changing, it's nice to know guys still care about playing," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "Guys like Tex and Michael Young, they have some real passion for the game. Nowadays, guys with health problems, they like to be cautious because there are so many dollar bills out there. They like to protect themselves. But these guys show up every day ready to play. You don't see that as much anymore." Teixeira saw it growing up. He was born in Annapolis, Md., grew up outside Baltimore and went to school in the city at Mount St. Joseph High School. He was first-hand witness to Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive-game playing streak. He admitted that influences his desire to play. "A lot," Teixeira said. "The great thing growing up in Maryland us that you get an Oriole game pretty much every day of the week and you always knew that Cal Ripken was going to be in the game. A lot of dads took their sons to see Cal Ripken and he didn't want to disappoint them. I feel the same way." Teixeira admitted that he's going to eventually disappoint somebody someday. He is not going to be the one to break Ripken's incredible record. "No chance," Teixeira said. "No way. I've been very blessed to play in 400-something games. There's no way I'm going to get 2,600-something games. For someone to play every game for 2,632 games, playing through pain, that's impressive." Teixeira should at least zip by Rodriguez. Washington has no desire to end the streak either, but he would like to get Teixeira more rest. He talked about the possibility of not starting Teixeira in a game, letting him rest for six innings and then bringing him in for the last three innings. "I don't know if he'll want to do that but I'm definitely going to suggest it," Washington said. Based on the past 2 1/2 years, it may be a tough sell.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.