Neck stiffness resurfaces for slumping Teixeira

While Alex Rodriguez is on the road back to good health and expected to rejoin the Yankees for Thursday’s late-afternoon series finale against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, there are other physical concerns disrupting the club.

Rodriguez homered in two at-bats for Double A Trenton Wednesday night after going 2-for-4 with a run batted in Tuesday night on an injury-rehabilitation assignment. It is too bad A-Rod did not take to playing first base a couple of years ago because the Yankees may have a real need there.

Mark Teixeira was out of the lineup Wednesday night because of neck stiffness, the same ailment that forced him to miss two home games earlier this month against the Royals. It has been a rough month for Teixeira, who is batting .164 with three doubles and two RBI in May that has driven his season batting average down to .195. Tex was 4-for-25 (.160) on the recent trip to Phoenix and Oakland. He went 16 games without an RBI from May 3-21, the longest stretch of his career. He was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in Tuesday night’s 6-0 victory over the Blue Jays. Teixeira has not homered since April 13, another career-worst stretch of 124 at-bats.

Dustin Ackley was at first base batting sixth in the order Wednesday night. Manager Joe Girardi conceded he does not have that many options at that position. He said he could use backup catcher Austin Romine at first base or use Romine behind the plate and have regular catcher Brian McCann at first. Romine was taking grounders at first base during batting practice.

Gary Sanchez, the catcher Romine beat out in spring training for the role of McCann’s caddy, is also hurt. Playing at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Sanchez took a foul ball off his right hand Tuesday night and sustained a bone fracture in this thumb that placed him on the disabled list.

A former Yankees catcher was a primary reason the Yankees’ six-game winning streak came to an end. Russell Martin, who entered the game without a home run and only one extra-base hit in 122 at bats, cranked two home runs to drive in three runs for Toronto in its 8-4 victory that dropped the Yankees back below .500(22-23).

The Yanks got a pair of home runs on back-to-back solos by Chase Headley (No. 3) and Didi Gregorius (No. 4) in the seventh but it was too little too late. For the seventh straight game, the Yankees’ starter pitched six innings or more. Ivan Nova (2-2) lasted two outs in the seventh before he hit Edwin Encarnacion with a pitch and was replaced by Chase Shreve, who gave up a two-run homer to Patrick Saunders.

The Blue Jays were not finished with Shreve. Justin Smoak doubled and Martin followed with his second homer of the game. His first came leading off the sixth against Nova, who was charged with four earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. A couple of two-out infield singles in the fourth hurt Nova, who then yielded a bases-clearing double by Ryan Goins.

Martin’s sixth-inning homer came in his 125th at-bat, the second longest drought at the start of a season in his career. Martin did not hit a home run in 2009 until his 218th at-bat for the Dodgers. Martin’s bid for a three-homer game came in the ninth but center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury caught his drive on the warning track.

Toronto starter Marco Estrada earned his first victory in eight starts since April 10. The righthander, who had received scant run support prior to Wednesday night, loaded the bases with none out in the second on singles by Headley and Gregorius and a four-pitch walk to Aaron Hicks but gave up only one run on an infield out. Gregorius had three hits, including a singe off lefthander Chad Girodo, which raised his team-leading batting average against southpaws to .368 in 38 at-bats.

Rodriguez has played only two games at first base, both in 2015, in his career and was not a bit comfortable on that side of the infield as he has been over the years as a shortstop turned third baseman. A-Rod made one error in his 9 2/3 innings as a first baseman.
The Yankees are hopeful Teixeira’s health issues are short-term. If the problem should linger, they would have to weigh all options. After a hot start at SWB, Nick Swisher has cooled off to a .260 batting average with four home runs and 13 RBI. He has been platooned there with Chris Parmelee, who is batting .244 with six homers and 18 RBI.

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