Joe Girardi doesn't think relationship with Alex Rodriguez will suffer

Joe Girardi speaks to the media before Game Joe Girardi speaks to the media before Game 4 of the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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Joe Girardi has no concerns that his decision to pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of ALDS Game 3 will forever alter the pair's relationship.

"We were talking. He wasn't angry," Girardi said before Thursday night's Game 4 at the Stadium, which went into the 13th inning tied at 1-1. "I don't think it will change our relationship. I think we have a very open dialogue. We have a very honest relationship. I trust him."

Girardi, who had Rodriguez in the lineup batting fifth in Game 4 against Orioles lefthander Joe Saunders, pulled him with one out in the ninth Wednesday night in favor of 40-year-old Raul Ibañez.

Ibañez made the decision pay off not once but twice. He hit a tying homer off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, then won the game with a solo shot off lefthander Brian Matusz in the 12th.

Rodriguez said "no, no, no" when asked if his relationship with Girardi might be damaged.

"I love Joe," he said. "I'm one of the leaders of the team. Maybe 10 years ago I react in a much different way. But I'm in a place in my career right now where the team is everything. I don't think there was anybody in the ballpark more excited for Raul than me. . . I didn't hang my head, I was the top guy on the step, and it was just a tremendous opportunity to cheer your teammate on."

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Girardi said the potential consequences of pinch hitting for a player with 647 career homers and seeing the move fail never passed through his mind.

In reality, the way Rodriguez had been performing, Girardi would have faced more questions had he not made the move.

"That's why you take your time in making that decision," Girardi said. "It wasn't something I thought of in the ninth inning. I thought about it in the seventh. Johnson had been pretty tough on Alex and righthanders."

Righthanders hit .214 with a .267 OBP against Johnson this season; A-Rod was 3-for-16 against Johnson and struck out against the closer to end Game 2.

Girardi decided to go with his "gut," which told him Ibañez, already with several late-inning heroics during the season, matched up better against Johnson's hard, heavy sinker. "This guy's got a turbo sinker. It's going to be hard to elevate it if you're a righthanded hitter," Girardi said. "Most lefties are low-ball hitters. The fence is a lot shorter in rightfield. I just started factoring all of those factors in and said, 'I'm going to go with my gut.' Did I worry about what was going to happen if it didn't work? No, because I don't think you can second-guess yourself."

Girardi said he considers the long-term consequences of a decision like that, but in the moment, that can't take priority. "I think you have to manage that, but I think you could see the attitude of Alex when [Ibañez] hit it," he said. "I mean, our guys want to win at all costs. That's what we have in there, and for that I'm pretty fortunate."

He was speaking of the clubhouse, where players said they weren't shocked by the move.

"Johnson's been really tough on righties and Raul's been swinging such a great bat," Mark Teixeira said. "Joe rolled the dice and it worked . . . A lot of things happen in this game. This is a funny game. It's a really weird game and it was a move Joe made and it paid off for us."

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"It's definitely a bold move," Russell Martin said of pinch hitting for a player with A-Rod's resume. "But just facing him and knowing what he can do to a righthanded hitter, you prefer to have a lefty up there. He had a really nasty sinker and I feel like after he allowed that home run to me, he was going to make sure he kept the ball down, and when he does that, he's really tough to hit."

A-Rod walked and singled in his first two at-bats in Game 4, then struck out against Tommy Hunter with two outs and the go-ahead run on second in the sixth. He also struck out against Darren O'Day with men on second and third and one out in the eighth. It was his ninth strikeout in 15 ALDS at-bats.

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