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10/27/09 6:57 PM EST

Tex set to make mark on first Series

Slugger/defensive wiz savoring Fall Classic experience

NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira glanced down at the World Series patch affixed to the left sleeve of his sweatshirt and flashed a grin. Yes, this was pretty much what he expected when he put his name on that contract.

After signing a $180 million deal to man first base for the Yankees, the first year of Teixeira's eight-year commitment has gone just about as well as expected.

"You come here to New York to win a championship," Teixeira said. "For us to get here in the first season is pretty special. At the same time, we have 25 guys in here that aren't satisfied at all.

"There's not one guy in here that will tell you, 'Oh, we made it to the World Series, we had a great season.' We're going to look back at this, and if we don't win it, it will be a disappointment. That's why we're so focused right now."

Coming around after a slow start, the switch-hitting slugger's stroke helped the Bombers plenty, as Teixeira clubbed 39 homers to tie for the American League lead. But it has been his outstanding defense at first base that opened eyes and dropped jaws all season long.

"I think he's had an amazing impact, honestly," Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett said. "When you have a guy over there at first base like him, it gives your infielders confidence that they can pretty much throw the ball anywhere. They can make plays that they can't normally make. They can rush things.

"They can do a lot more and pretty much throw it anywhere over there and he's going to come up with it. He's saved so many runs making those plays at first and being as active as he is. His bat speaks for itself in that lineup, but I think what he brings for our infielders is huge."

Burnett said that even if he sees things go awry on the infield with a bad throw, as a pitcher, he is able to keep it in his head that Teixeira is there as the safety blanket and will bail the Yankees out of the situation.

"That guy has been changing the whole infield," second baseman Robinson Cano said. "Before I had to pay attention to my left and right. When you have a pull hitter, I can move off a little bit. He's not good, he's great."

Teixeira has had to let his glove do the talking a little more than usual in the postseason, as his scuffles at the plate have continued without derailing the Yankees' World Series hopes.

2009 World Series
Gm. 1 PHI 6, NYY 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 2 NYY 3, PHI 1 Wrap Video
Gm. 3 NYY 8, PHI 5 Wrap Video
Gm. 4 NYY 7, PHI 4 Wrap Video
Gm. 5 PHI 8, NYY 6 Wrap Video
Gm. 6 NYY 7, PHI 3 Wrap Video

"I tried to do the best I can out there. I haven't been getting it done offensively," Teixeira said. "When I can step up and play solid defense, it really helps the team out."

While Teixeira hit just .167 (2-for-12) in the AL Division Series sweep of the Twins, but one of those hits was a huge one -- a walk-off homer in Game 2. Teixeira had six hits in 27 trips (.222) during the six-game ALCS against the Angels, driving in three runs and striking out eight times.

Now comes the World Series, a place where Teixeira can make the first two rounds completely irrelevant. When the lights come on Wednesday night in the Bronx, Teixeira will be front and center in the spotlight he has waited his whole life for.

"This is my seventh year and my first opportunity to play in a World Series," Teixeira said. "I know there are a lot of great players out there, Hall of Fame players, who have never had this chance. I'm not taking it for granted, and at the end of the series, hopefully I'm going to look back and have a big smile on my face because I'm a world champion."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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