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Teagarden sprouts success for 51s

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Unless you’re Taylor Teagarden.

The 51s catcher has made several indelible first impressions in his 10-year pro baseball career.

He homered for his first big league hit to break up Scott Baker’s perfect game in the sixth inning in 2008 — when he belted six home runs in his first 12 games in the majors for the Texas Rangers — and he launched his first career walkoff homer in the 13th inning of his first game with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012.

A member of the Texas Longhorns’ 2005 College World Series title team and the United States’ 2008 Olympic bronze-medal winning squad, Teagarden also has made quite an impression early in his first season with Las Vegas, the New York Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.

The 30-year-old hit two homers in Saturday’s 11-3 win over Tacoma at Cashman Field and has a team-leading five homers in his last six games.

51s manager Wally Backman kidded Teagarden — who shares catching duties with defensive stalwart Juan Centeno — about his playing time after Saturday’s game.

“I told him if he would’ve hit three (homers) I would’ve played him (Sunday), but he only hit two so he’s not playing,” Backman said, grinning. “I’m trying to split the catching so neither of them get tired and they don’t get stale.”

Teagarden, who has averaged about 55 games per season in his career as a backup catcher, said getting consistent playing time has been a key to his success this season. He’s batting .326 (14-for-43) with 12 RBIs in 13 games and is riding a seven-game hit streak.

“Getting at-bats and repetitions is helping, and playing games back to back,” Teagarden said before sitting out his second straight game in Monday’s 3-0 loss to the Reno Aces before a crowd of 3,034 at Cashman Field.

“Wally’s done a great job of balancing us, to let us both get on the field and stay fresh,” he said. “This is more like playing 50-50 rather than playing once or twice a week, which can be really tough.”

Backman said it’s crucial for a power hitter such as Teagarden to stay in a groove.

“The reason he’s here is he’s had some inconsistent at-bats. A lot of that’s due to not having enough regular playing time, in my opinion,” he said. “From what I’ve seen, he’s got tremendous power.”

“When his playing time has increased, the consistency is there. A guy like Teagarden is a special player if you can keep him sharp.”

A .206 career hitter in 163 games in the majors, Teagarden, a Dallas native, was locked in during his first stint in the majors with the Rangers — batting .319 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 16 games.

He was just the third player since 1956 to homer six times in his first dozen big league games, joining Carlos Delgado (Toronto, 1993-94) and Curt Blefary (Baltimore, 1965).

“It was just a situation where I was fortunate to get some consistent playing time at a time when I was feeling pretty good at the plate,” he said.

Teagarden has seen action in the majors in each of the last six seasons, but hasn’t topped .235 since 2008.

Despite batting a career-low .155 for Texas in 2010, he finished fourth in the American League All-Star voting for catchers thanks in large part to a push from a Dallas radio station.

Teagarden, who was in Double-A Frisco at the time, attracted 631,674 votes to finish behind catchers Joe Mauer, Jorge Posada and Victor Martinez.

Signed to a minor-league deal by the Mets, Teagarden’s power could be his ticket back to the bigs.

“Even if he’s just a backup guy, the day that he plays, he’s a threat to do damage and hit home runs,” Backman said.

■ NOTES — Mets outfielder Juan Lagares (hamstring) joined the 51s to continue his major league rehab assignment. He started in center field and batted leadoff for Las Vegas (18-7), going 1-for-4. … 51s utilityman Eric Campbell was named the Pacific Coast League Player of the Week. He hit .500 (11-for-22) with a homer and seven RBIs and played five different positions. Campbell, batting .337, also scored six runs to increase his league-leading total to 25.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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