Yankees at the break: Third base • 07.13.11
When Alex Rodriguez stopped driving the ball late last month, it was obvious something was wrong. The Yankees talked about a sore knee, and it seemed he needed to play through it until he got back to normal. Turns out, getting back to normal required surgery that will force Rodriguez to miss a month or more.
When Rodriguez finished the month of April hitting .290/.407/.609, it seemed he might have regained his MVP form. He’d talked a lot about finally going through his regular offseason routine – he was no longer forced to rehab – and it seemed to be paying off. May wasn’t nearly as productive, June was another big month, and then came the surgery. It was an up-and-down first half even before Rodriguez injured his knee while running the bases in Chicago.
Rodriguez probably won’t be back until mid-August or so. The Yankees are hoping that he’ll return at 100 percent, ready to hit for power and provide a significant spark down the stretch. He was hitting .302/.413/.623 in the 15 games leading up to that Chicago series, so maybe a healthy knee is all he needs to be one of the best hitters in baseball again. If he comes back as good as ever, the Yankees will have a bigger addition than any team could hope for at the trade deadline. It’s worth noting that Rodriguez has only 13 home runs at this point. His streak of 13 straight seasons with at least 30 homers is probably coming to an end.
Added to the 40-man after a tremendous 2010 season, Triple-A third baseman Brandon Laird started this season with a .184 average through the month of April, and he’d still hit only two home runs by the end of May, but he’s turned things around significantly and how has a .268 average with 10 homers at the break. He’s been especially good against lefties and could play a role at the big league level to help fill the A-Rod void. In the lower levels, Rob Segedin and Robert Lyerly played well enough to earn mid-season promotions to Tampa and Trenton respectively (Lyerly has primarily played first since joining the Double-A roster). First-round pick Dante Bichette is off to a slow start in rookie ball.
Can Eric Chavez play a role in the second half?
The Yankees seemed to have landed a significant bench player when Chavez started this season hitting .303 as a part-time third baseman, first baseman and designated hitter. He might have pushed Jorge Posada out of the DH spot had he not hobbled off the field in Detroit back in May. He hasn’t played since, and his rehab has included a series of setbacks. If Chavez could come back healthy, he could be the best Rodriguez place holder the Yankees could ask for.
It was the quad in 2008, the hip in 2009, the calf in 2010 and now it’s the knee. Rodriguez remains one of the game’s better hitters, but he’s about to turn 36 years old and he’s showing signs of breaking down. He’s signed through 2017, so the Yankees might have to count on more DH time and fewer starts at third base in the not-so-distant future.
Associated Press photo