Teixeira's thumb bruise a 'constant battle'
Slugging first baseman breaks out with two homers on Friday
NEW YORK -- A deep bone bruise on Mark Teixeira's right thumb has made it difficult for him to grip the bat recently, sapping a good amount of his power through September.
But the Yankees' switch-hitting first baseman may be turning the corner at just the right time, having belted two home runs in Friday's 10-8 loss to the Red Sox.
"I swung the bat well," said Teixeira, who homered in the sixth inning off Josh Beckett and in the ninth inning off Josh Bard. "It's going to be a constant battle. It's not going to be 100 percent, but I feel good enough to play. I'm going to go out there and keep working hard and try to put together good at-bats."
Teixeira's bone bruise dates to a diving play in the field on Aug. 27 in Chicago. Teixeira has also been dealing with a fractured pinkie toe on his right foot; his two homers on Friday were his first of September, during which he has batted .197 (15-for-76) with eight RBIs.
"Definitely the last two days and even a couple of days before that, I think I've been swinging the bat a little better," Teixeira said. "It's feeling better. Hopefully, I can build on the last two nights. We've got a long way to go. I hope we're going to be playing for another five or six weeks."
Dungy offers Yanks motivational message
NEW YORK -- The Yankees have tapped into Tony Dungy's motivational playbook, having invited the former NFL head coach to address the team in a closed-door meeting on Saturday.
Dungy said that he spoke to the Yankees for about five minutes before the club's game against the Red Sox, an informal give-and-take that the players seemed excited to take part in.
"We talked about some of our experiences, and focusing and hanging together down the stretch for important games," Dungy said. "It's not necessarily who has the most talent, but what team sticks together and executes fundamentals the best."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that the team has been trying to line up Dungy -- who lives in Tampa, Fla. -- as a guest speaker since Spring Training, but their schedules have not matched up. Dungy is in New York this weekend for his duties as an NBC Sports football commentator.
"It was a real treat," Girardi said. "I admire him tremendously, for his faith, his beliefs, the kind of man he is, the type of coach. I've read his books, I subscribe to his Web site. [I have] a ton of respect."
Dungy said that he was briefed coming into the meeting that Nick Swisher would probably have the most questions for him, but Swisher said he was content to mostly sit and listen.
"Everything that man stands for is nothing but good things," Swisher said. "To bring a guy like that into our locker room and talk to us, that's an honor for us to hear. For a man who's been so successful in his life and also a man who's dealt with a lot of adversity as well, to see where he's still standing right now, it's amazing."
Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes echoed similar thoughts, saying that it was nice to hear about Dungy's life experiences and success in the sports world, especially with the final push to the World Series right around the corner.
"They don't necessarily talk to you about the fundamentals of baseball -- it's more about preparing for what's ahead of us," Hughes said. "There are a lot of new faces that weren't here last year, so it's not like we can just roll in and do what we did."
Dungy said that he has a lot of respect for Girardi and downplayed the substance of his message.
"It's probably nothing [the players] haven't heard from Joe, but I have a son who doesn't listen to anything I say," Dungy said. "If he hears the same thing from someone else, sometimes it has a little more impact."
After bruising elbow, Kearns returns
NEW YORK -- Austin Kearns returned to the Yankees' starting lineup against the Red Sox on Saturday after being sidelined with a bruised left elbow, suffered after he was hit by a pitch last weekend.
Kearns was drilled by a pitch on Sept. 19 from the Orioles' Matt Albers in Baltimore, and he said he had been unable to perform his regular work in the batting cages, sitting out five games.
"I didn't swing for a couple of days," Kearns said. "I was just trying to get the swelling out and let it calm down. The last couple of days, it's gotten better. It was just a matter of getting the swelling and stiffness better."
Kearns batted seventh for New York on Saturday and played left field. He is hitting .242 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 32 games for the Yankees since being acquired from the Indians in July for right-handed pitcher Zach McAllister.
Special Olympics New York athletes and Bronx residents John Eacobacci and Ivelisse Caraballo threw out the ceremonial first pitches on Saturday in honor of Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day. ... Curtis Granderson entered Saturday with 12 homers in his last 39 games after hitting just 10 homers over his first 90 games this season. ... Entering play on Saturday, the Yankees had lost more than three consecutive home games under manager Joe Girardi just twice -- four in a row from April 17-May 1, 2008, and five in a row from May 2-7, 2009.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.