Teixeira expects icy reception at Fenway
Slugger opted to join Yanks after talks with Sox last winter
Mark Teixeira dug in for his first road at-bat of the season to a chorus of lusty boos, but the tidal waves of insults seemed to die down by the end of the Yankees' series with the Orioles earlier this month.
Teixeira should expect no such pass when the Yankees enter Fenway Park for a three-game series this weekend, the slugger's first experience in the game's most intense rivalry. After spurning Boston to sign an eight-year deal in New York, Teixeira can get used to icy receptions on Yawkey Way.
"I'm not sure if it's going to be louder, because it's April still," Teixeira said. "But it's going to be fun, because Red Sox - Yankees is always fun. It's what I'm used to on the road.
"I never hear anything, there's so much noise, you never really hear any words. I'm sure it will be the same. I expect heavy boos. I expect nothing less from those fans."
The Baltimore faithful turned their backs on Teixeira for the Opening Week series after the Severna Park, Md. product dabbled in talks with the Orioles, among other teams, before finally deciding that the Yankees would be his next employer.
But Teixeira arguably seemed closest to signing with the Red Sox -- he and agent Scott Boras dealt directly with principal owner John Henry and general manager Theo Epstein, even setting up a December meeting in Texas that prompted Henry to fire off a cryptic e-mail stating that the Red Sox would bow out.
"We met with Mr. Teixeira and were very much impressed with him," Henry wrote on Dec. 19. "After hearing about his other offers, however, it seems clear that we are not going to be a factor."
Despite Henry's claims, as late as the morning of Dec. 23, there was widespread speculation that Teixeira would wear Red Sox crimson in 2009 and beyond. Even Yankees general manager Brian Cashman seemed to believe that Teixeira was a long-shot, only learning from Boras two days before Christmas that the 29-year-old had decided upon New York as his final destination.
"I'm not going to get into specifics on negotiations, but the only thing I can say is I enjoyed talking to the Red Sox all offseason and I'm very impressed with Theo Epstein," Teixeira said. "There's no question why the Red Sox are in the position they are. He's an incredible GM and they have a great organization.
"There were opportunities for every team I dealt with. Every team had a chance to make their best offer. In the end, the Yankees made the best and it was a great fit for me."
Teixeira had said that his wife, Leigh, played a major part in deciding to accept the Yankees' offer -- reportedly $10 million more than Boston's final proposal -- and says there are no hard feelings toward the Red Sox fans.
"I'm sure that they're disappointed, and that's natural," Teixeira said. "That's to be expected."
In the Boston mix, Teixeira would have created a ripple effect that might have seen Boston subtract Mike Lowell, shifting Kevin Youkilis to third base. He would have also essentially replaced Manny Ramirez as a powerful threat capable of providing protection for David Ortiz.
Despite his ultimate decision, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia tipped his cap and said that the Yankees got themselves a major upgrade on the corner.
"He's a great player. He adds a lot to their team," Pedroia said. "He's hitting in the middle of their lineup, he's going to drive in a lot of runs. He plays Gold Glove defense too."
Ortiz said that he might envy Teixeira for hitting in what may prove to be a jet-stream filled Yankee Stadium, but opined that the Yankees' maneuvers to acquire A.J. Burnett -- who starts Saturday -- and CC Sabathia were even more important.
"I would say pitching is going to be the biggest move they made," Ortiz said. "That's because last year they had good hitters. All of them hit pretty good but they would score 10 runs and the other team would score 12. They let some good hitters go so they definitely had to go for another good hitter. But pitching-wise, they really needed some help before they got those guys. Their pitching out there now, they look pretty good."
While this will be Teixeira's first time wearing New England's most hated laundry, he is no stranger to hostile environments. Teixeira said that he was greeted by thunderous boos during last year's American League Division Series at Fenway Park while playing for the Angels, and it wasn't completely unwelcome.
"If anything, the energy that comes from the fans being into it locks you in," Teixeira said. "I remember when I was in the playoffs last year in Boston, I never felt more focused in my career. The boos, the energy, whatever you call it, it really kind of just locks you in."
Coming off the Yankees' inaugural homestand, a 4-2 showing against the Indians and A's, Teixeira said that he feels good about what his new team has shown. But win or lose, he is not regarding this weekend's trip to the Fens as any sort of litmus test for the Yankees' campaign.
"I think it's a little too early to be testing yourself against anybody," Teixeira said. "We've got to get into the flow of the season. I would be shocked if we're both not right up there by the end of the year."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.