Teixeira acclimates to being an Angel
First baseman takes first batting practice with new team
BOSTON -- Meeting the media on Wednesday for the first time as first baseman of the first-place, best-in-baseball Angels, Mark Teixeira was open and expansive about almost everything.
One area he did not wish to explore was his impending free agency -- and the risk the Angels were taking that he might love them and leave them this winter.
"It'll be in the back of my mind," he said of the prospects of signing a long-term extension, "but I hope you guys believe me when I say my No. 1 goal is to win here.
"Those are questions I'll answer at the end of the season. I don't want to take any focus away from my team or teammates."
Veteran Angels reliever Darren Oliver likes the Angels' chances of keeping him around long-term. During winters at home in the Dallas area, he came to know Teixeira, the former Rangers slugger, over rounds of golf.
"We belong to the same country club," Oliver said. "I played with him a lot. I'll have to let him tell you about his golf game. Believe it or not, he doesn't hit it very long.
"He's cool. One thing I can tell you about him is that he's always wanted to be out on the West Coast. Who wouldn't?"
Teixeira has a few things to take care of before he is introduced to Angel Stadium fans on Monday night against his hometown team, the Orioles. After a relatively quiet debut in Wednesday night's 9-2 demolition of the Red Sox at Fenway Park, he took flight with teammates for New York and four games with the Yankees starting Thursday night.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia greeted Teixeira soon after his 2 p.m. ET arrival at Fenway Park, filled him in on a few things, and arrived at one quick conclusion: "We're a better offensive team than we were yesterday."
Teixeira reiterated that he was "ecstatic" with the move to a contender in the Tuesday swap that sent first baseman Casey Kotchman and pitching prospect Stephen Marek to the Braves.
Teixeira knew rumors were flying left and right with the Thursday non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching, but had no idea where he was going.
"I heard the Angels," he said, "but it's the last team you think about. A team in first place already has so many pieces. When I found out I was coming here, I was ecstatic. You want to be with a team that can go all the way."
The Angels, he added, meet all the qualifications: dominant pitching, versatile offense, first-rate defense, depth, and quality leadership.
"There's great protection" in the Angels' lineup, Teixeira said. "Vladimir Guerrero is a [future] Hall of Famer, one of the best players in baseball now and in the history of the game. I'm very lucky to be hitting in front of him."
Scioscia, in his first meeting with Teixeira, made an instant impression.
"Being in first place this time of year is great, but Mike made it very clear the biggest game of the season is tonight," Teixeira said, getting indoctrinated quickly into company policy.
The Angels, Gary Matthews Jr. said, look into character as well as talent. Teixeira's teammate during several very good years for both in Texas, Matthews is convinced his old buddy will enhance his new outfit.
"The club brings in blue-collar guys who handle business and go out and win," Matthews said. "There [are] not over-the-top personalities here. Not only did they bring in a guy with credentials -- switch-hitter, hits to all fields, Gold Glove -- but his personality fits in with this club, also.
"We're happy to have him, and he's happy to be here."
Teixeira nodded in appreciation.
"People in Atlanta gave me a hard time, saying I'm all business," Teixeira said. "It's true. I'm boring. I go to the ballpark the same time, do my routine. I'm here to work and win ballgames -- and I think I'll fit in great with this team."
The Angels showed the new man just how accommodating they are. Teixeira was carrying four bags when he reached Fenway Park, he said, and second baseman Howie Kendrick came up and asked if he needed any help.
Slipping into No. 25 for the first time, Teixeira had a session with hitting coach Mickey Hatcher.
"I learned all the things I needed to know," Hatcher said. "His drills are very simple. He works his way into [batting practice]. He talked to me about some of his triggers, things I can look for and pick up. I'll look at video, like I do with all the guys, but I don't want to get too heavy into that.
"This guy can hit. I think it's going to be a pleasure working with him."
Teixeira is driven by the desire to compete in postseason play for the first time after 4 1/2 seasons in Texas and the equivalent of a full season in Atlanta.
"No doubt," he said when asked if the Angels are a World Series-caliber club. "All of our goals are the same. This team has so many pieces. I just want to be one of the pieces."
Playing for October glory before the Braves fell short brought out the beast in him last summer in Atlanta. In 54 games after arriving from the Rangers with southpaw Ron Mahay in exchange for five prospects, Teixeira batted .317 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs.
"It always brings out the best in a player," Teixeira said of his sizzling finish. "The last time I was in that situation was 2004 with the Rangers, and I had a great second half.
"Every time you go to the ballpark and win, you know you're getting that much closer to the [postseason]. It gives you a little pep in your step -- and hopefully, that's going to be the case this time."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.