David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The X-rays of Mark Teixeira's bruised big toe were negative, but that didn't stop the speculation about how the Yankees might get Alex Rodriguez in the lineup for this week's two-game series against the Nationals.
Playing in Washington means no DH, obviously, and therefore no A-Rod, as Joe Girardi prefers to keep Rodriguez confined to the batter's box. But if there's one thing we know about Teixeira and injuries, it's that they tend to take longer to heal than expected. And judging by the Yankees' performance at the plate this past week, they need all the A-Rod they can get.
Still, the idea of Rodriguez putting on a glove and standing for an extended period of time doesn't jibe with Girardi's blueprint of keeping him healthy over a six-month period. With Teixeira's boo-boo, the manager was coy about the possibility of needing to use Rodriguez at first, and A-Rod, ever the diplomat these days, answered with a question first. "Um, what did Joe say?" he asked.
In trying to drum up some offense, there no easy solution for these upcoming games against the Nats, who will pitch Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. On the plus side, the Yankees will miss Max Scherzer.
The Yankees scored a total of one run in their two losses to the Royals. In Saturday night's 5-1 win, three runs came on one swing from Chase Headley.
The Yankees chalk it up to a bad week. After blowing out the Rays, 11-5, last Monday to kick off the road trip, they went 1-5 and averaged 1.83 runs in the six games. In that same stretch, they batted .215 (43-for-200) with nine extra-base hits, including three homers.
Though that represents only a tiny fraction of the season, and the tail end of a 30-games-in-31-days stretch, it's a trend that bears watching. Girardi is militant about parceling out vacation days for his players, and that's a challenge he'll face again as we get deeper into the season. Right now, the Yankees choose to blame this offensive malaise on a combination of fatigue and good pitching.
"Sometimes you just run into guys that are throwing the ball well," Girardi said. "But as we move forward, we have two off days, and hopefully that helps us physically."
As we've pointed out before, the Yankees basically are playing with seven hitters every day -- or at least the days when Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius are in the starting lineup together. Among those seven, they can't afford to have Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner cool off. As for the run-producers in the middle, Rodriguez (.250) and Teixeira (.248) are at the head of the class, so it can be all or nothing from that group.
To this point, it's been working. Rodriguez drilled his 10th homer Saturday night and Teixeira already has 11. They've also played 36 and 37 games, respectively, meaning that health hasn't been an issue -- until Teixeira took that Edinson Volquez fastball off his right big toe in the fourth inning Sunday. Teixeira stayed in for two more innings before Girardi lifted him, but he didn't sugarcoat the injury afterward.
"As the game went on, it got really sore," Teixeira said. "It doesn't feel good right now."
As far as we could tell, Teixeira wasn't limping on his way out of the clubhouse. He also was wearing loafers rather than a walking boot, so it would appear -- with the day off -- that Teixeira should be fit to play Tuesday night.
The rest of the Yankees no doubt will benefit from the breather in D.C., too. Aside from Saturday's pitching gem by CC Sabathia, the Royals seemed to run circles around the Yankees over the weekend.
"No question, it's been a tough stretch," said Headley, whose throwing error led to a pair of runs in the sixth. "You're going to be fatigued, but you still have to execute, and we haven't been able to do that."
In the past two years, we've seen the Yankees stay in contention for a few weeks after the All-Star break and then collapse from the weight of injuries and fading performance. At the start of this torturous run, on April 17, the Yankees had a three-game lead in the AL East. It's now down to one.
On Tuesday night, against the charging Nats, we'll see what a difference a day makes.