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Teixeira focused on play, not contract

POSTED: March 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Atlanta Braves first baseman Mark Teixeira catches a ball during spring training workout Wednesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. — No offense to Alex Rodriguez, but Mark Teixeira won’t be negotiating any contracts on his own.

He’ll let Scott Boras crunch the numbers.

“That’s why I hired an agent,” the Atlanta Braves first baseman said Thursday. “My business is baseball.

His business is doing the contrasts. I stay out of his business. When he asks me a question, I answer it. Other than that, I’m worrying about the field.”

That’s hardly an encouraging sign for the Braves, who would love to sign Teixeira to a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

With team president (and former general manager) John Schuerholz setting the tone, Atlanta has often been reluctant to deal with Boras, feeling his contract demands are just too outrageous.

And rest assured, Boras is expecting to land a huge deal for Teixeira, with $20 million a year a likely starting point.

“I don’t worry about that stuff,” Teixeira insisted. “The most important thing for me this year is getting this team to the playoffs. I’m one piece of the puzzle. For me to worry about contract negotiations and contract talks, that’s going to take away from the team. I’m going to go out there and play the game. If I play the game the way I’m capable of playing, the contract will take care of itself.”

A-Rod, of course, took a different tact after opting out of his contract with the New York Yankees. Breaking with Boras, Rodriguez reopened talks with the Yankees minus his agent, quickly working out a new 10-year, $275 million deal.

Also Thursday, another of Boras’ former clients, Detroit’s Gary Sheffield, called the agent “a bad person” and said he’s trying to get money he doesn’t deserve.

Then there’s Teixeira, who couldn’t be happier with Boras.

“We get along great,” the 27-year-old first baseman said. “He’s a good friend of mine, as well as the best agent in baseball. I have no complaints.”

The Braves had no complaints about the way Teixeira performed last season after he was acquired from Texas just before the trade deadline. He batted .317 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs for Atlanta, leaving him at .306 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs overall — his fourth straight 30-homer, 100-RBI season.

Teixeira teamed with Chipper Jones to provide the Braves a lethal switch-hitting duo in the middle of the batting order.

“It’s a pitcher’s nightmare having two guys in a row hitting for power and being switch-hitters,” said Teixeira, who’s expected to bat cleanup. “I love watching Chipper hit. I love hitting behind him. He’s on base at a .400 clip. That gives me a lot of RBI opportunities. I feel very lucky hitting behind him in the lineup.”

Likewise, said Jones, who hit .337 with 29 homers and 102 RBIs last season.

“He’s going to get me some pitches to hit in some key spots,” the third baseman said. “Having two switch-hitters hitting 3-4 in lineup, who can hit .300, hit 30 (homers) and drive in 100, that’s a rare commodity. You don’t get that very often. Tex and I are going to try to wreak some havoc.”

Teixeira took up switch-hitting at the urging of his father, first trying it in a game when he was 13. He’s certainly glad he followed the old man’s advice.

“I was lucky enough to be bigger and stronger than most kids growing up,” Teixeira recalled. “I was a good right-handed hitter, but my dad wanted to make it a challenge for me. So I took up left-handed hitting. It’s the best thing I ever did. My dad’s a genius.”

With Teixeira joining the mix, the Braves certainly had no trouble scoring in 2007, ranking third in the National League with an average of five runs per game. But the pitching staff was hit by injuries and never found any reliable starters beyond John Smoltz and Tim Hudson.

Atlanta finished third in the NL East for the second year in a row, now working on an unwanted streak after making 14 straight playoff appearances from 1991-2005.

“I can’t complain one bit about being traded to Atlanta,” Teixeira said. “I wish we had won a little more last year, but I think that just makes us hungrier for this year.”

The Braves’ lineup may not be quite as imposing this year. Edgar Renteria, who batted .332, was traded to Detroit. Andruw Jones, a fixture in Atlanta for more than a decade, left as a free agent and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Teixeira isn’t worried.

Yunel Escobar, who batted .326 as a rookie, takes over at shortstop for Renteria. Mark Kotsay was acquired from Oakland to replace Jones in center field. The Braves also have Jeff Francoeur, (.293, 19, 105), Brian McCann (.270, 18, 92) and Kelly Johnson (.276, 16, 68).

“It’s great to be on a team with a lineup so strong,” Teixeira said. “It takes a lot of the pressure off me. Anytime you have guys on base all the time, and you have guys who can drive in runs behind you, you’re going to get a lot of good pitches to hit.”

Teixeira certainly wouldn’t mind an extended stay in Atlanta, but that’s out of his hands. He’ll leave those sort of issues to Boras and the Braves’ front office.

The two sides haven’t negotiated since holding preliminary talks during the arbitration process, which resulted in agreement on a $12.5 million contract for this season.

“It’s a great group of guys. I performed well. I’m comfortable here,” Teixeira said. “We’ll just have to get to the end of the season and see where everything takes us.”



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