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Alex Rodriguez dropped to sixth to break up lefties

Alex Rodriguez, left, and Andy Pettitte watch from

Alex Rodriguez, left, and Andy Pettitte watch from the dugout during the first inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. (Aug. 25, 2013) Credit: AP

TORONTO -- No, there was nothing to read into Alex Rodriguez's getting dropped in the lineup Monday night. He has struggled of late, but Joe Girardi said batting him sixth had a simple explanation. "Just to split the lefties," he said. "Because if not, you're going to stack three in a row, and I didn't want to do that."

So Girardi went with Robinson Cano in the third spot against R.A. Dickey followed by Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson and Rodriguez, who hit his 650th home run in the fifth.

A-Rod, who started at third after sitting Sunday -- though he did pick up the first pinch hit of his career that afternoon -- entered the night in a 2-for-16 slump. He was hitting .273 with a .360 on-base percentage since returning Aug. 5.

Derek Jeter, A-Rod and Ichiro Suzuki were in the lineup at the same time for the first time this season. They began the night with 8,952 hits between them.

Nuñez the utilityman

Eduardo Nuñez received most of the starts at shortstop in Jeter's absence and still will play there when he gets a day off. But Nuñez will play elsewhere, too.

"He's going to play some short, he might play a little third, he might play second a day," Girardi said. "He's going to play. You just kind of go day-by-day."

When the Yankees sent Nuñez, 26, to the minors last season, it was for the express purpose of having him master the shortstop position and correct his erratic throwing, thought to be the result of playing different infield positions. But when utilityman Jayson Nix was hit by Dickey last week and broke his left hand, the plan had to change.

"He's really our only other option at second base right now," Girardi said. "Nixy's down, we're not going to get him back. It makes sense. He's going to have to take some ground balls there."

Claiborne sent down

When the Yankees activated Jeter from the DL yesterdayon Monday, they chose to keep lefthanded reliever David Huff and instead demoted rookie righthanded reliever Preston Claiborne, 0-1 with a 2.78 ERA in 37 games this season. "We feel we want to keep the two long guys and a second lefty," Girardi said.

Claiborne will be back Sunday when the rosters expand.

Badger sighting

Before the game, Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan, along with his team, took in Yankees batting practice from the field. Ryan chatted with Girardi, a Northwestern graduate, for several minutes behind the cage.

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