Mark Teixeira plans to delay knee surgery and return this year

ByRoger Rubin ESPN logo
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

NEW YORK -- Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is making the bid to come back from torn cartilage in his right knee without surgery because he has nothing to lose.

Teixeira said that a surgical option to repair the injury -- a full knee debridement, he called it -- would cost him the entire season. And if playing on it makes it worse -- a possibility -- he will need the procedure anyway.

"It's a four-to-six-month recovery," he said Tuesday before the Yanks played the Angels at Yankee Stadium.

Instead the hope is that he can return in three weeks. The course Teixeira is undergoing involves cortisone injections to help reduce swelling and pain; rest; treatment; and injections of the cushioning lubricant Synvisc.

"If we want to fix the cartilage and clean it up, you have to have surgery. But we think that with the type of injury it is, we can get through this season without it," Teixeira said. "You can play through pain and soreness, but when it locks up and it's extreme pain and you can't move your leg, that's a problem.

"If the inflammation goes down and the cartilage can kind of settle a little bit, then maybe it won't lock up and I will be all right. That's kind of what the lubricant does, too. It helps it from locking up."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he plans to use Rob Refsnyder and Chris Parmelee to man first base while Teixeira works his way back.

Teixeira is quite familiar with the surgery he would require, having had it on his left knee in December 2007. He said "it's not a fun surgery" and "I don't want the surgery" while talking about the arthroscopic procedure. He said there was some measure of soreness for more than a year after he had it, though that was managed as he hit .308 with 33 home runs and 121 RBIs for the Braves and Angels in 2008.

"You can always treat it and be on top of it," he said. "But like I said, I don't want to have that kind of surgery."

Teixeira hit 31 home runs in 2015, even though his season was cut to 111 games by a broken leg. He is off to a slow start, batting .180 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. He missed four games in the last week of May with a stiff neck. And he came out of Friday's game in Baltimore after complaining that his right knee "locked up."

He went on the DL on Saturday and the decision for this course of action was taken after meeting with team medical personnel on Monday.

He believes that he won't be limited when he returns, but the condition of his knee will influence availability.

"If it swells up after a game, maybe take the next game off," Teixeira said. "I am not going to try to be a hero because we know we are not just dealing with just soreness. You deal with soreness. We're dealing with, you know, a structural problem. We just have to try to keep the swelling down and keep the pain out of it."

He isn't expecting any days playing designated hitter with Alex Rodriguez as the club's full-time DH. But he does think three weeks is a reasonable estimate for his return.

"We throw out these things as general timetables. It could be two-and-a-half. It could be three-and-a-half," Teixeira said. "But around then is what we're kind of going to build up to, and hopefully around three weeks I'll be on the field playing in a game, whether it's here or in [Double-A] Trenton or whatever it is, I want to be playing at that time."

Teixeira, 36, is in the final season of his eight-year, $180 million contract. He said at spring training he hopes to play several more seasons.

"I'm not even thinking about that. I'm really not," he said. "Next year doesn't matter to me at all right now, it's all about getting through this season and trying to help this team win."