As soon as third base coach Robby Thomson posted today’s lineup, a collective set of oohs and aahs could be heard coming from the swarm of media in the Yankees clubhouse. Alex Rodriguez is not starting for the first time since rejoining the Yankees earlier this week, but according to Joe Girardi, this is just a routine day off.
“Just a day,” Girardi said. “It’s a quick turnaround, he’s coming off an injury and I’m just trying to manage it to make sure we keep him on the field the rest of the year.”
Before we had a chance to see today’s lineup, A-Rod did address the media. He ducked out last night without speaking to reporters, and seemed surprised that they wanted him to talk this morning.
“I think he has a plan,” Rodriguez said of Girardi. “For me, it’s similar to the middle of March. You play these games in the minor leagues, and even if you play seven or eight innings, they’re quick games. They’re over at 9 o’clock or 9:30… I trust Joe, that he’s going to do the best for me.”
• A-Rod was asked a lot of non-baseball questions — mostly about how Yankees fans responded to him last night, which he said was “overwhelming” — but he was also asked about what was his worst night at the plate since his return. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts against on Friday, and acknowledged that he had trouble against Detroit righty Rick Porcello. “The first three games I felt pretty darn good, but yesterday Porcello had some nasty sinkers,” he said. “I think after 10 or 12 games, I’ll have a better feel. The big thing for me is getting my legs under me.”
• Last year, A-Rod’s struggles were much more glaring against right-handed pitchers, and last night was his first time facing a righty starter since his return. The plan that right-handers use against him is pretty simple — pound fastballs inside, preferably that finish out of the strike zone — and the result was some bad-looking swings. He said that he needs 50-70 at-bats against righties before drawing any conclusions, and Girardi concurred. “I think so,” Girardi said when asked if it’s too early to make any judgments. “Until last night, his at-bats had been really pretty good. And Porcello was really tough on our whole lineup, except the top three guys had really good at-bats against him. He’s been pitching pretty well. He ran his sinker in hard on him. It looked like a strike, and then it would go below the zone. When you swing at a ball below the zone, it’s going to be hard to center it for anybody. I don’t think you can determine where his swing is and where his legs are at when he’s swinging at pitches that aren’t good pitches to hit.”
• While Girardi denied any reluctance to play A-Rod against righties, he did acknowledge that he probably would have found a way to play him if today’s starter was left-handed. “I probably would have figured out how to DH him today,” he said. “I would have probably had to make up my mind as to what I’m going to do.”
• As for the A-Rod plan moving forward, Girardi said he’s going to play it by feel. “It’s a day-by-day,” he said. “You think about that we had a real late night last night. If we didn’t have that late night, maybe I play him today. It would have been the first day game after a night game. I’m just trying to be proactive in this and make sure that we don’t run him into the ground, where he ends up hurting something else.”
• While much of the pregame chatter centered around A-Rod, there was also still a buzz about Miguel Cabrera’s ninth inning homer off of Mariano Rivera. Girardi was asked if he thought Miggy was coming out of fouling a ball off of his leg earlier in the at-bat. “No, I didn’t because I’ve had a chance to manage him,” he said. “I’ve seen him get hit thinking that he would come out of a game, thinking that he wouldn’t play the next day, and sure enough, he was in there. One of the things that I was very impressed with by Miguel when I managed him in ’06 was, not only was he extremely talented, but he was tough. He doesn’t come out of games.”
• Girardi was also asked about what makes Cabrera so dangerous. “He has a lot of talent, but I think it’s his plan,” he said. “He understands what he needs to do each at-bat. He knows how pitchers are going to approach him, he adapts to that. He adapts to ballparks. You look at this place, and he’s going to try to go to right field a lot of the times. Here’s a guy that, when you look at him, he’s not on the end of the bat, he’s not swinging as hard as he can, he’s fouling off tough pitches, he’s prolonging at-bats. He just really has a good idea of what he wants to do, and what people are doing to him.”
• Here’s A-Rod on Miggy: “The guy is amazing,” he said. “That was a joke. Everyone thought it’s like the movies. You have to shoot him to make sure he’s dead. I knew he wasn’t coming out of the game. I said, ‘Don’t fall for that bait.’ ”
• Rivera has now blown back-to-back saves for just the third time since 2005. Girardi was asked if he’s noticed any difference in Mo’s demeanor, but we all pretty much knew the answer before Girardi even gave it. “He’ll be the same every day,” he said. “I think that’s part of what makes him so great. I think of the years that I’ve had him here as a manager, he’s had times where it’s one tough week and then he rolls for like three months again. It’s just part of his job, part of what he does. At times, people are going to get you, but most of the time, he gets them.”
• After losing four straight, the Yankees finally got a much-needed win last night thanks to Brett Gardner’s walk-off single in the 10th. They could desperately use a winning streak to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, and they’ll turn to their most unreliable starter to get it done. Phil Hughes is probably pitching his final two months as a Yankee, and he hasn’t done much to help his free agency cause of late. “It’s consistency in pitches,” Girardi said. “Locating his fastball, making sure he uses his off-speed effectively, having those pitches. It’s just consistency in those pitches, and when he has it, he usually goes deep in games. When he doesn’t, he struggles.”
Associated Press photos