|Marco Scutaro applies the tag at second to Yankee Russell Martin who tried to stretch a single into a double in the fifth inning. (Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff)|
At first, they’re a pair
Gonzalez, Teixeira superb at position
In 2005, the Texas Rangers had a problem. They had one too many young, talented first basemen.
Mark Teixeira had a bit more big league experience, so he got the nod. He started 162 games that season, batting .301 with 43 home runs and 144 RBIs, with the occasional appearance as a designated hitter.
Adrian Gonzalez filled in at first during those games, and spent a few games in the outfield or at DH. The rest of his time was spent waiting for a chance to be an everyday first baseman in the major leagues.
That opportunity came with the Padres, who acquired Gonzalez in a trade prior to the 2006 season.
Gonzalez’s success with the Padres led him to the Red Sox - with whom he signed a seven-year, $154 million contract extension through 2018. Once again, Gonzalez followed Teixeira; this time, to the American League East.
A free agent heading into the 2009 season, Teixeira had signed an eight-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees.
“We talked here and there,’’ Teixeira said. “He wasn’t in the big leagues too much with me. We always knew he was going to be good. I definitely followed him when he went to San Diego because he started playing well pretty much right away.’’
The two who began as young Rangers first basemen have grown into two of the best first basemen in the game. Teixeira and Gonzalez are now sluggers on high-profile teams that happen to be bitter rivals.
Contracts like the ones they signed and playing in cities such as Boston and New York mean one thing for Teixeira and Gonzalez: pressure. But to Teixeira, that’s not the overarching feeling.
“Any time you get a chance to play in a place like Boston or New York, I take it as more of a fun experience than a pressure experience,’’ Teixeira said. “There’s obviously pressure, but we have pressure on us no matter where we’re playing.’’
Teixeira has handled it well. He won the Gold Glove and knocked in at least 100 runs in each of his first two seasons as a Yankee. He entered last night’s game with 32 home runs and 86 RBIs. Gonzalez has thrived in his first season in the AL. Entering last night, Gonzalez was leading the league in hits (159), RBIs (91), and batting average (.352).
“He’s done a great job,’’ Teixeira said. “He’s one of the leading MVP candidates. He’s doing it all, offensively and defensively.’’
It’s easy to compare the two because both Teixeira and Gonzalez put up impressive offensive numbers and produce highlight plays in the field. Just last night, Teixeira made a diving stab to rob Jacoby Ellsbury of a single in the first inning.
It appears to be a two-man race for the Gold Glove, as Teixeira (2) and Gonzalez (3) have combined for just five errors.
Does Yankees manager Joe Girardi think they’re the best first basemen in the game?
“You could say that, I think that’s fair to say,’’ he said. “You have two guys who play outstanding defense and two guys who are extremely productive at the plate.’’