In the span of 48 hours, Alex Rodriguez became a $29-million-a-year platoon player.
A-Rod, 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts in the first four games of the ALDS, was left out of Joe Girardi's Game 5 lineup against Orioles righthander Jason Hammel, replaced at third base by lefthanded-hitting Eric Chavez.
"It's been a struggle against the righthanders,'' Girardi said before Game 5 after pinch hitting for Rodriguez in Games 3 and 4. "Chavy's been a guy we've played a lot against the righthanders and has been pretty successful for us. But it's a tough decision, there's no doubt about it.''
A-Rod did not play and watched the entire game from the bench. Chavez went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as the Yankees advanced to the ALCS with a 3-1 victory over the Orioles. With the Tigers having no lefthanders in their rotation, it wouldn't be shocking to see A-Rod sit again.
"Usually I say I am going to worry about one day at a time,'' Girardi said when asked after Game 5 about A-Rod's starting prospects for the ALCS (including Tigers righthander Doug Fister in Game 1). "I'll have a lineup for you tomorrow.''
When it comes to making an earth-rattling call regarding Rodriguez, the horse left the barn in the ninth inning of Game 3 when Girardi pinch hit Raul Ibañez for Rodriguez against Baltimore's closer, righthander Jim Johnson. Ibañez hit a tying home run, then won the game in the 12th inning with a solo homer off lefthander Brian Matusz.
Girardi's decision to pinch hit for Rodriguez again a night later was much easier, especially given that the move worked out the first time. Chavez batted for Rodriguez against Johnson in the 13th inning of Game 4 and lined out to third to end the game.
That call hardly created a buzz, which obviously hadn't been the case the night before. The buzz was back Friday afternoon.
"Well, obviously I'm not happy,'' Rodriguez said before Game 5. "I'm disappointed. You want to be in there in the worst way. But I keep telling you guys, this is not a story about one person. This is about a team, and we have some unfinished business today. Our objective is to win one game tonight and keep this thing moving. I do know with 27 outs, a lot can happen, and I'll be ready from the first inning on.''
Although it may have satisfied fans who focused much of their ire on Rodriguez for the offense's struggles through the first four games, the move is no small matter. Certainly not within the organization.
Rodriguez, 37, who ranks fifth on the career home run list with 647, has another five years left on a 10-year, $275-million contract.
"You do think about that,'' Girardi said of his future relationship with Rodriguez, whose relationship with former Yankees manager Joe Torre suffered after Torre dropped him to eighth in the order without telling him in the 2006 ALDS against the Tigers. "But if things become an issue, now's not the time to try and work it out. We have the whole offseason. But I don't think it's going to be an issue, I personally don't.''
Said Cashman, "I'm only interested in what helps us win today's game. This gives us our best chance to do that . . . None of that stuff factors into what can best help us win the game today.''
Girardi said the decision was run up the organizational flagpole, including Cashman. "I always talk to him about things,'' Girardi said.
Asked if he ran into any opposition, he said: "They allow me to make the lineup. They do. So I just told them what I was thinking.''
Girardi said he "got a hold'' of Rodriguez at about 1 p.m. to inform him of his lineup decision.
"The man has a lot of pride. The man has accomplished a lot in his career. I'm sure it's not easy,'' Girardi said. "It's not easy. Players have a lot of pride and they have a lot of pride in themselves. It's not easy, but as a manager, sometimes you have to make tough decisions.''
More of which could come in the ALCS.
"For those who don't remember the '09 World Series and that whole playoff run, if it wasn't for him, we don't win that World Series,'' Mark Teixeira said. (Rodriguez was 19-for-52 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 15 games in the 2009 postseason.) "He picked us up then, we picked him up this series, and I think next series he's going to do great.''
With David Lennon
and Marc Carig