As Mark Teixeira gets ready to make his second and likely final appearance in a Thunder uniform tonight, it was hard not to think about the “Tex” that was here the whole season.
Back in 2009, reliever Kanekoa Texeira won over fans with solid pitching — 9-6 with a 2.84 ERA in a career high 101 1/3 innings — and a fantastic attitude. The Maui, Hawaii native always had a smile on his face, and even threw his warmup pitches to theme song from “Hawaii Five-O,” an homage to his heritage and his jersey number, 50.
Picked in the Rule 5 Draft by Seattle a year later, he found himself in the big leagues. Even after he got let go by the Mariners, he seemed to find a home with the Kansas City Royals, for whom he made 33 appearances over the course of two seasons. In short, everything was good for the now 27-year-old righty.
And then that stopped. Texeira got let go by the Royals early in the 2011 season, and struggled with both Trenton and Scranton at the end of the year. But he seemed to turn things around the following season while with the Cincinnati Reds organization, posting a 2.72 ERA in 34 appearances for their Triple-A affiliate in Louisville. It had seemed he’d put himself in the conversation for a big league job again.
Instead, he got cut on the last day of spring training this year.
Texeira thought about hanging it up, but has instead chosen to continue his career with the Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish, where he has former Thunder outfielder Austin Krum as his teammate.
“Things are going good,” Texeira said. “It’s the same as it is every year; I start off a little slow, then I get into a groove. It’s still good to play this game and get paid…somewhat.”
Texeira leads the (13-25) Bluefish with 14 appearances, and is 2-2 with a 3.05 ERA in the Atlantic League, where the maximum player salary is $3,000 a month.
“There’s a lot of guys here that I’ve played against in the big leagues and in Triple-A, so the caliber of play here is pretty good, actually,” he said.
“It’s pretty laid back compared to affiliated baseball, but I think there’s great talent in this league. I know lots of people get picked up or go on to play in Mexico or Japan, so it says a lot about this league and what the guys can do in it.”
Texeira says that former Newark Bears manager Chris Jones, who was his skipper during his 2007 stay in Kannapolis, told his players back then that if things didn’t work out, that the Atlantic League was the place they should look first. He just didn’t expect that he’d need to use that advice six years later.
“I hope (I get some calls),” he said. “You never know what could happen. If I put up good numbers…for me, I was in the big leagues a year and a half ago, and now I’m here. I just need to keep my head up, stay happy and keep playing.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com