As the Yankees go through batting practice here in San Diego, most outside attention is clearly focused on Trenton where Alex Rodriguez homered in his second plate appearance of a Double-A rehab assignment. Joe Girardi acknowledged that it’s entirely possible Rodriguez could be in the Yankees lineup on Monday.
“I think it’s possible, yeah,” Girardi said. “I think if we didn’t (believe he could be back this season), I believe that we wouldn’t have him go through the rehab. We expect him to be a player. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen, only Major League Baseball knows what’s going to happen, so we have to prepare as if he’s going to be a player for us.”
The latest reports say that Rodriguez and other Biogenesis-linked players have a Sunday deadline to decide whether to accept a shorter suspension or appeal a longer one. Suspensions are expected to be announced on Monday.
Curtis Granderson’s return not only brought back a home run threat, but also their Players’ Association representative. Granderson said it’s still unclear how the Players’ Association will react to upcoming suspensions, because it’s still unclear what evidence has been obtained and on what grounds the league might suspend players more than the 50-games described by the joint drug agreement.
“I asked when all these different things were being talked about with 100 games or 200 games, where does this fall in?” Granderson said. “There’s certain language in there that’s still kind of gray for my understanding. It does open up to what exactly is going to happen in the future? If someone is in a very similar situation that has been violated up to this point, do they get suspended another 64 games (similar to Ryan Braun)? Is it more? Is it less? There will definitely need to be a little clarification moving forward so players have a better understanding of it.”
Granderson said his most recent discussions with the MLBPA indicated that the union was prepared to support and back any players who want to fight their suspensions.
“I know there are some things in there that you can be suspended for without actually violating a test,” Granderson said. “For example, refusing to talk. I know you can be suspended for that, but how many games I don’t know. I think some of that language needs to be cleaned up just from my opinion.”
Obviously, there’s a lot of unknown here, but Rodriguez is playing again and the Yankees seem prepared to activate him with in a few days if that’s possible.
“I hope so; I’m looking forward to it,” Granderson said. “Once he gets those two (rehab games) done and taken care of, then come to Chicago, my hometown. I’d love to have him with us. That type of guy is a guy that’s a presence with any lineup that he happens to be in, and I know everyone on this team is looking forward to getting him back.”
• If Rodriguez doesn’t come back, Eduardo Nunez is going to have a chance to be the Yankees regular third baseman. Nunez said he feels more confident at the position and thinks his new throwing approach at shortstop will carry over. “We’re going to give him a shot there,” Girardi said. “We’ll evaluate every day what we think, but we’re going to give him a shot. … We’re just hoping that the maturity, and the couple years of doing it, playing well at shortstop this year will give him the confidence to do it. But part of it’s based on need.”
• Obviously Alfonso Soriano is out of the lineup tonight. Girardi said he’ll rotation which outfielder is on the bench during this series. He also said he hasn’t settled on a regular spot for Granderson in the lineup. “It lengthens our lineup, and obviously when we get our DH back in the lineup Monday, it changes that as well,” Girardi said. “We’ve got him hitting fifth tonight, I don’t know exactly where he’ll hit every night, but he’s a big power threat.”
• Center field will remain Brett Gardner’s position, with Granderson playing there only when Gardner is given a day off.
• Girardi gave a lukewarm answer when asked how Derek Jeter is doing after playing back-to-back games in the field — “He’s doing OK,” Girardi said — and he indicated that Jeter will probably get one game off this weekend. “I won’t announce that, because someone will say (to Jeter), ‘Hey, I heard he’s going to give you a day off,’ and then he comes running into my office,” Girardi said. “We’ll evaluate him every day.”
• As expected, Melky Mesa was optioned to Triple-A to open a 25-man roster spot. Thomas Neal was designated for assignment to open a 40-man spot.
• Granderson said he hasn’t felt afraid of being hit by a pitch while working his way back from a pair of broken bones. “I’ve been hit before,” he said. “It’s not the first time. It definitely won’t be the last. I had some games down in the minor-league rehab when balls were inside. I got hit running the bases, you know? All those things, the ball’s gonna hit me at some point, but I just gotta go out there and keep playing. Can’t play scared, can’t play timid, just go out there and leave it out there for nine innings.”
• Granderson also gave a kind of evaluation of what he’s seen from Rodriguez’s rehab work in Tampa. “The last impression that was left, we had a timed conditioning run at the end, and we both made it well under the time,” Granderson said. “For me, that was a good sign that power-wise was there for him, speed was there for him, agility was there. Endurance is still coming, which will take a little bit of time, but a lot of the things that I’m sure he’s got on his checklist he’s been able to check off so far.”
• For whatever it’s worth, Phil Hughes was hitting some legitimately long home runs during early batting practice today. And Hughes smiled when a few reporters told him that we’d noticed his power display. “Spread the word,” he said. Make no mistake, every pitcher wants to be a hitter.
Associated Press photos