USA Baseball: Players Who Must Step Up in Mark Teixeira's Absence
In what can only be described as a shocking development, first baseman Mark Teixeira will miss the World Baseball Classic. Teixeira suffered a strained tendon in his right forearm and will be out 7-to-10 days.
Team USA is now without a first baseman—so who must step up in Teixeira's absence?
The injury came as a surprise to all involved, as Teixeira displayed no signs of injury in recent outings. After taking a few cuts in the batting cage, however, the New York Yankees first baseman felt pain.
Team USA manager Joe Torre told the story, via Jim Caple of ESPN.
"He took about three or four light swings as he was starting to get loose and he felt something in here," Torre said, pointing to the upper wrist area. "I asked him if there had been any indication of it before, and he said, 'No, nothing.' He never had this before. He was just shaking his head."
A shocking occurrence that has left Team USA without a first baseman.
With an abundance of talent, one might be inclined to believe that the Americans will survive this injury-related blow. Finding a player to fill in at first base is not the only issue, though.
Replacing Teixeira's power in the rotation is an issue of its own.
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins
One of the greatest strengths of Team USA's lineup was going to be the three-headed power monster of Mark Teixeira, Ryan Braun and Giancarlo Stanton.
With Teixeira out of the lineup, however, it's now a two-man tandem. As a result, it's on Stanton to provide the power.
Braun will step up with a high batting average and respected power. With Texeira absent, however, a truly feared middle of the lineup bat has been lost.
More importantly, with Teixeira out, pitchers now have the luxury of pitching around Braun. The question is will Stanton make them pay?
If he does, pitchers may begin to opt to face Braun as opposed to Stanton. Anyone remotely familiar with baseball will tell you how terrible of an idea it would be to allow Braun the chance to hit.
How the WBC plays out now rests on Konerko's powerful shoulders.
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer is a catcher by trade, but with Mark Texeira out, he could be tasked with playing first base.
Teixeira was the only true first baseman on Team USA. Ben Zobrist and Willie Bloomquist are utility men, but they're far from your ideal players at that spot of the diamond.
Unless Team USA finds someone to take Teixeira's place on the roster—Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox is rumored to be a candidate—Mauer is the most likely to step in.
So how will he fare?
Even if he doesn't provide the power that Teixeira would have brought to the team, Mauer can still hit for average. As long as he gets on base and finds gaps in the outfield, the Americans should be fine without Tex.
The question is can Mauer replace Teixeira's Gold Glove-caliber fielding abilities?
J.P. Arencibia, Toronto Blue Jays
As previously alluded to, there is a relatively strong possibility that Joe Mauer will be tasked with playing first base in Mark Teixeira's absence.
That leaves the backup catcher role in the hands of J.P. Arencibia and Jonathan Lucroy. Chances are Team USA will go with Arencibia.
Arencibia has worked his way up the ranks with Team USA as an organization. Due to his international familiarity, there will be games in which Arencibia sees extended run.
The question is will he be up to the task?
Even if Mauer remains at catcher, Arencibia will likely see playing time while stepping in for knuckle-ball Toronto Blue Jays teammate R.A. Dickey. The issue, however, is that Arencibia is needed for more than his fielding.
Without Mark Teixeira, Arencibia must step up as a power hitter—can he and the rest of the team step up where need be?
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