TAMPA, Fla. -- The injury that will keep New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira out of the lineup until May at the earliest is not a wrist strain, as originally reported, but a partially torn tendon sheath that could potentially require season-ending surgery.
As of now, the Yankees are still expecting Teixeira to heal without needing an operation and to rejoin the club after about 8-10 weeks of healing time.
But Teixeira, who arrived at spring camp Sunday morning with his right wrist in a cast-like splint and will rehab there for the rest of the spring, raised the possibility that his absence could be longer than that.
"This is one of those things I can't come back too early,'' he said. "We saw last season when I tried to play too early [with a calf injury] what happened. If I try to play too early from this we could miss the whole season, and we don't want that. I don't know if it's the beginning of May, the end of May, the beginning of June, I don't know when it is but we got a whole bunch of season left and the time that really matters is the playoffs.''
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was surprised to hear Teixeira say the injury was to the tendon sheath, a covering that keeps the wrist tendon in place, rather than to the tendon itself. He called Yankees team doctor Chris Ahmad, who told him the injury was a partially torn tendon sheath but a stable tendon, an injury that generally heals without surgery.
"Ahmad told me if he had a fully torn sheath, it's automatic surgery, and if he had a partially torn sheath with an unstable tendon, it's automatic surgery,'' Cashman said. "This is a best-case scenario injury, the only one that can heal without surgery.''
Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays suffered a partially torn wrist tendon sheath tendon last July, and originally thought he could return after a 15-day stay on the disabled list. But he was discovered to have an unstable tendon as well and ultimately underwent season-ending surgery. Bautista attempted to play after coming off the DL, which resulted in his needing surgery.
"It's not fun,'' said Teixeira, who has been doing cardiovascular workouts and hopes to start one-handed baseball drills in a week or so. "I had a very similar wrist thing in 2009, and I missed three games. I had a cortisone shot and I wound up having a great 2009. If this is just a little bit worse than what I had, then I have full confidence that I'll be back 100 percent. It's just a matter of letting it heal.''
But Teixeira acknowledged he had no real idea of how long the healing process would be.
"Everyone's body heals differently,'' he said. "I'd love to be back before 8-10 weeks but we won't know until I start swinging. It's different from a broken bone, because you have a pretty good idea how long a bone takes to heal.''
"This is more like a pitcher with an elbow or a shoulder injury,'' he said. "If you come back early from Tommy John surgery or a labrum tear, you're going to hurt yourself. If I come back too early, I'm not going to be very good, and I could blow it out and risk surgery and then I'm out the whole year.''
Teixeira injured his right wrist hitting off a tee practicing with Team USA for the WBC, but insisted the injury had less to do with the tournament than with the earlier than usual spring training schedule this season, which had teams playing games in the final week of February.
"It has nothing to do with the WBC,'' he said. "We started playing games on the 23rd of February. That's insane. We're usually just reporting on Feb. 23. I've been hitting off a tee since December. This was a freak injury. The nature of baseball now is, you show up at spring training early and you start playing games. The WBC had nothing to do with it.''
Instead, Teixeira thought the injury might have come through overuse; he is known for taking a lot of swings in the offseason, and as a switch-hitter he takes a lot of swings from both sides of the plate. "I might have to take a step back from that,'' he said.
"We're not going to rush it," said manager Joe Girardi. "We're going to do everything that we're told to do in rehabbing him, and let's hope it works."