Alex Rodriguez was stuck on the disabled list the day he turned 36 years old. When he finally comes off the disabled list in a few days, he’ll have to spend some time as the Yankees designated hitter before resuming his role as an everyday third baseman.
Given his age and his recent injury problems, could this be the start of a trend? I think it’s generally assumed that Rodriguez eventually will need more and more time at DH, and less and less time in the field, but is this the moment that transition begins?
“I look at Cal Ripken,” Rodriguez said. “He was always my role model. He played to about 40 or 41. The one thing about third base is (you need) a strong arm and one step and dive. When you think about center field or the middle of the infield, you have to do so much more. As a shortstop, I always felt like that. As a third baseman, even if you have limited range, if you have good hands and a strong arm, I think you can play there forever.
“As long as you’re driving the ball offensively, it’s very important to be out there at third base because it allows your team, your roster and the organization to have a solid bat at DH, or have it as a rotator where you can have guys like Tex, Jeet, myself and Robbie to occupy it. You kind of strangle the team a little bit by just being an everyday DH when you can go out and play third base. You can always go out and find a guy that has a little more range at third, but if you can be a guy that can produce 30 runs, drive in 100 runs and make 10 or 12 errors, I think anybody would sign up for that.”
Maybe it’s overly optimistic, but it’s also a fair point. The Yankees won’t need Rodriguez to be a Gold Glove defender as long as he remains a capable fielder and a productive hitter. Of course, the level of production the Yankees would have in mind would require a return to the power numbers that seemed to escape Rodriguez during those three weeks leading to last month’s knee surgery.
“It was a strange thing because I was hitting for a high average and making good contact with the baseball and driving in runs, but I just wasn’t driving the ball out of the park,” Rodriguez said. “And that’s something I really haven’t been used to. The last two or three weeks (before surgery), I was playing with a lot of pain, and I thank our staff for advising me to have the surgery because I would have just kept playing right through it… I think that’s the reason we chose to have the operation. Although I was swinging the bat well and producing and getting hits, my value is to do a lot more than just getting base hits.”
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Associated Press photo