NEW YORK -- Mark Teixeira says that he is already about 10 pounds lighter thanks to diet and exercise, but what the Yankees first baseman really wants to do is bulk up his batting average from the left side.
Teixeira said that his .224 batting average facing right-handed pitching last season was "very disappointing," and his main winter focus will be on getting more singles to reduce the effectiveness of the defensive shift against him.
"I'm going to do the same things but focus more on, left-handed, using the whole field," Teixeira said. "I looked at everything at the end of the season. I went through my entire season. I need to hit more singles left-handed. That's the fact of the matter."
Teixeira was at the Waldorf Astoria on Wednesday to receive his award as the March of Dimes' Sportsman of the Year. Hope Solo and Abby Wambach of the U.S. women's national soccer team were among others receiving honors from the organization, a leading nonprofit for pregnancy and baby health.
"The March of Dimes, because of helping out mothers, young children, babies, it's very close to my heart," Teixeira said. "I have three young children. I had a son [William] who had some complications last year when he was born. It's organizations like the March of Dimes that can help out those mothers and babies in need."
Teixeira batted .248 with 39 home runs and 111 RBIs in 2011 for New York, his third year with the Yankees, tying for third in the Majors in homers and seventh in RBIs.
"Right-handed, I thought I had a great year," Teixeira said. "Power-wise, I thought I had a great year, but my average was very disappointing. Being able to hit the ball the other way a little bit more, use the whole field, take the shift away, it's going to really help me out."
Late in the season, manager Joe Girardi moved Robinson Cano to third in the batting order and Teixeira down to fifth against right-handed pitching, something that continued into the playoffs. Teixeira said he did not know if the move would carry over to 2012.
"It doesn't really matter to me," Teixeira said. "I could hit anywhere in the lineup. I'm going to hit my home runs and drive in my runs. We have such a great lineup. It doesn't matter where I am."
Saying that he has already started running and lifting, Teixeira plans to begin baseball activities on Jan. 1. Teixeira said that he won't sacrifice his power, which he called his "No. 1 attribute," but added that he is already down to 216 pounds.
"I feel really, really good," Teixeira said. "I'm eating a lot healthier; I've always eaten pretty healthy, but [I have used] the juice diet, making sure I'm not adding any unwanted calories. I've been able to run so much more, just being in better shape and getting over some nagging little injuries. Being able to move more and eat better really helps."
Still, Teixeira may need to find a new location to get some of his winter work done, with Tuesday's reports that Bobby Valentine will be named the next manager of the Red Sox. Teixeira had been using Valentine's sports academy in Connecticut as an offseason training ground.
"I was joking around on Twitter and Facebook, I don't know if he's going to let me hit at his facility anymore in Stamford," Teixeira said. "I've been hitting there for two years now at Bobby V's academy, and he's there a lot. He's a very busy guy obviously, but we'll go and we'll talk about hitting, we'll talk about baseball. I don't know if those conversations are going to be kept to a minimum now."
Teixeira lauded Valentine's hiring as one that will boost the profile of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.
"Bobby Valentine is a great manager and he's a funny guy," Teixeira said. "He's got a great personality. I think the interviews either before or after games are going to be a little more interesting, and that'll be good for both teams."
Keeping an eye on the Yankees' Hot Stove movement, Teixeira said that he never doubted CC Sabathia would return as the ace of the rotation.
"The Yankees love CC and CC loves the Yankees, so I knew he would stick around," said Teixeira.
With a rotation that currently projects to have Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia following Sabathia, Teixeira expressed confidence that the Yankees should be able to again chase their first goal of winning the American League East.
"I thought we had a great pitching staff last year," Teixeira said. "We hung in there. We had a couple of guys that really stepped up in Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. We had some young guys step up; Ivan Nova became one of the best starters in baseball by the end of the season.
"We have a great pitching staff, and whether we tweak the roster a little bit, it doesn't really matter, because once the games start, you've got to go out there and perform."