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Pregame notes: “Trying to do what’s the best thing to win”

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Another day, another lineup, another game with Alex Rodriguez on the bench.

“This is not easy to do, and it’s not what I necessarily want to do,” Joe Girardi said. “You’d like to have a steadfast lineup, but we have a lot of guys that are struggling. Sometimes you’ve got to make changes. We’re trying to do what’s the best thing to win games.”

Tonight’s lineup has Brett Gardner playing again, Curtis Granderson benched for the first time, hitless Eric Chavez back at third base, and recently benched Nick Swisher back in right field and moved up in the order to No. 2.

Girardi said he’s reacting to Granderson’s ongoing strikeout problems, trusting Chavez’s long-term impact against right-handers, giving Swisher another chance after a couple of hits earlier in the series, and believing that Eduardo Nunez is an improved defensive player with a good bat.

“When I went into the postseason, this is not what I imagined having to do,” he said. “You thought we’d have a set lineup, and we might change it if there’s a left hander or a right hander, but the struggles have been tough. Right now, I think you have to worry about the present – but you do have to worry about the long term effects as time goes on.”

It seems like Rodriguez has been the scapegoat, but Brian Cashman pointed out that Rodriguez’s struggles are not the small sample size that we’ve seen from guys like Swisher and Robinson Cano. Rodriguez has struggled against right handers all year, got much worse in the past month and a half, and has been awful in the playoffs.

Both Girardi and Cashman said the decision to bench Rodriguez has nothing to do with reports of him hitting on a woman from the dugout in Game 1. Cashman said the lineup is “discussed organizationally” and is not strictly Girardi’s choice.

“Purely baseball related,” Cashman said. “This is all about winning.”

Has Girardi talked to Rodriguez to make sure their relationship is not broken beyond repair?

“That’s a great question, and I know that, but it’s not something that I feel is right to answer (about) the conversations that we have and what takes place between a player and a manager,” Girardi said. “Are the conversations long or are they short? How do you do it? When do you do it? That’s personal stuff that I like to keep in the clubhouse, but as a manager, when you’re in the playoffs, you really have to worry about the present. But as time goes on, you’re going to have to worry about the future as well.”

[3]• Cashman said there was nothing new discovered in Derek Jeter’s broken ankle — no ligament damage or anything — and the new recovery timetable is simply the product of Dr. Robert Anderson being more conservative than the Yankees medical team. Cashman believes the four-to-five-month estimate means that Jeter will be playing in games within four to five months. He’ll begin baseball activities before that.

• Cashman and Girardi both indicated that they expect Jeter to be ready for Opening Day. Cashman said he has no plans of pursuing a free agent shortstop as a reaction to the Jeter injury. He cited Nunez and Jayson Nix as in-house alternatives if Jeter isn’t ready in time.

• All day, Cashman has denied — in a text to me and in conversations with basically every other beat reporter — a report that the Yankees are engaged in trade talks [4]that would send Rodriguez to the Marlins. “False,” Cashman said. “One hundred percent false.”

• Rodriguez responding to the story that he tried to get a woman’s phone number from the dugout: “I said it was laughable,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been here a long time in New York, I think nine years, I’ve never addressed anything from Page 6, I’ve never addressed anything from blogs or gossip columns. We’re here to cover baseball. Some of the criticism out there is very fair and I can live with that, but some of the other stuff is not fair. And you just move on, you don’t worry about it too much. I’ve been in New York a long time.”

• Phil Hughes sore back does not seem serious, but Girardi said the Yankees are still not sure what they’re going to do with him or when they’ll be able to use him again. It seems possible he could be available out of the bullpen before the end of the series. “We don’t really need to do anything today, so let’s see how he feels and find out,” Girardi said.

• Girardi acknowledged that Chavez hasn’t been much better than Rodriguez this postseason. “His at-bats, I feel, have been pretty good,” Girardi said. “You look at his at-bats off of Verlander last night, he got the barrel of the bat to the ball three times. You do have to look at those things.” It’s also worth noting, again, that Rodriguez’s struggles against right-handers have gone on since well before the postseason.

• Why take a chance on Nunez at shortstop with CC Sabathia on the mound? “Nunie’s played well defensively for us (since coming back),” Girardi said. “He’s had some plays in this series, and I really like his at-bats.”

• Andy Pettitte was officially announced as the Yankees Game 5 starting pitcher.

• Are the Yankees prepared to fly home tonight if they lose this game? “My bags are wide open,” Girardi said. “I haven’t packed a thing.”

Associated Press photos