I honestly thought we’d see a lineup change tonight, and Joe Girardi said he considered it, but he settled on something familiar.
“We had playoff baseball the whole month of September,” Girardi said. “And we were pretty good with the lineup we sent out there, and (Alex Rodriguez) was in that spot. He got on base. I started thinking: If that first ball he hit goes through, that he squared up (in Game 2), we probably aren’t talking about this. But the guy makes a really good play, takes away a couple RBI, it changes the inning and changes the tone. He hasn’t been the only guy that hasn’t had some hits. Collectively, we didn’t get it done on Monday. Al is always the hot button and he’s always going to be the hot button. That’s not going to change.”
At this point, Rodriguez’s numbers are not debatable. Girardi is seeing the same thing as everyone else, but his reaction is minimal.
“If you start moving the lineup all the time, try to hit the right button all the time, it’s tough,” Girardi said. “I have faith in our players that they’re going to get it done. They have to know that I trust them, because if they went up there every at-bat thinking, ‘He’s going to move me’ or ‘He’s going to take me out of the lineup,’ that’s a tough way to play.”
Girardi also said he’s OK with having a guy who simply gets on base in front of Robinson Cano. He said that keeping the line moving is “what we’re trying to do.” Girardi also said he hasn’t seen a reason for Rodriguez’s month-long power outage, except to say that power hitters can be streaky.
“I don’t think for the last few years I’ve considered him a 40-plus homer guy, I just haven’t,” Girardi said. “I still think if he plays the whole year, he’s going to hit 30 and he’s going to drive in 100. … He might be a little different, but I still think he can be extremely productive. We saw him have a run of two really good weeks in the month of September — we did — where he hit the ball hard. Right before he got hurt, he was swinging the bat extremely well and driving the ball. It’s in there. It’s definitely in there. We just have to get it to come out.”
Girardi was careful to mention that moving one person in the order can affect several hitters, and he likes consistency in his clubhouse. Concern about Rodriguez’s ego, Girardi said, was not a factor.
“Al would do anything I asked him to do,” Girardi said. “I know that.”
• Just another heads up that we’re going to do another in-game chat, except this time I’ll be the one hosting the chat. Carp is here to do a column for tomorrow’s paper, and our old friend Brian Heyman is handling the game story for the newspaper, so I’ll be able to do some chatting during the game. See you there!
• Girardi left no wiggle room on tomorrow’s starter. “Hughesy will start tomorrow,” Girardi said. “Hughesy’s starting tomorrow.” Even if tomorrow is an elimination game, Phil Hughes will start ahead of CC Sabathia.
• Part of the reason for sticking with Hughes is that Girardi doesn’t want to bring Andy Pettitte back on short rest on Friday, and the Yankees would need to do that if they started Sabathia on short rest tomorrow. Pettitte specifically asked today what his schedule would be going forward. “I told him what our plans were,” Girardi said. “This is a guy that’s coming off an injury, didn’t have a ton of starts, threw as many pitches the other day as he’s thrown in a while. He’s 40 years old. So I do have some concerns about that.”
• Eric Chavez got the start ahead of Raul Ibanez because of Chavez’s previous at-bats against Baltimore Miguel Gonzalez. “There’s other things that I look at (including) the types of pitches that he hits, the type of pitcher,” Giradi said. “Tou look at Chavy, I think Chavy is 3-for-6 and squared up four balls on this guy in six at-bats. I know it’s a small sample but obviously he’s seen him and sees the ball.”
• Girardi said he personally watches video of his players at-bats against each game’s opposing starter. Most of the Yankees have been terrible against Gonzalez this year — Cano, Granderson and Swisher are each 0-for-6 — but Chavez was one of the few exceptions. Interestingly enough, so was Ibanez, who was 2-for-6 with a homer.
• The Yankees have hardly used their bullpen since the regular-season finale a week ago. “Rust is a little concern for me,” Girardi said. “I don’t think the rest hurts our guys this time of year, but I do have some concerns about that. But I’ve been very pleased with what we’ve gotten out of our starters. They’ve been great, and hopefully it continues.”
• Will Hiroki Kuroda be better than he was in the month of September? “It’s the time of year that all starting pitchers are probably a little tired, so we think the extra rest is going to help him,” Girardi said. “It’s not unusual for a starter to go through a period of time where they’re going to be really sharp and not really sharp. I mean, he went through it the first month, and it wasn’t fatigue. We thought maybe it was getting adjusted to New York. It just happens. I feel good about him on the mound because I’ve seen what he’s done all year for us.”
Associated Press photos