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Alex Rodriguez likely to return to Yankees' lineup Monday against Rays

Alex Rodriguez yells to a teammate after taking

Alex Rodriguez yells to a teammate after taking batting practice before a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

Alex Rodriguez is back. Or at least there's a good chance that he will be.

"I think he'll be in the lineup [Monday],'' Joe Girardi said after an 8-3 loss to the Orioles on Sunday that cut the Yankees' AL East lead to two games over Baltimore and 31/2 over Tampa Bay. "We could use his bat, for sure. We need him to come back and be productive for us.''

The Yankees will begin a three-game series against the Rays Monday in St. Petersburg, Fla., before playing four games in Baltimore.

The Yankees have missed A-Rod's bat since he was hit by Seattle's Felix Hernandez and broke his left hand July 24. He was hitting .276 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs in 94 games when he went on the disabled list.

Rodriguez took his first live batting practice Tuesday. On Friday and Saturday, he played in rehab games for Class A Tampa, going 0-for-7 with a walk, a run and four strikeouts. He was scheduled to play a third rehab game Sunday but did not, Girardi said, because the game was scheduled for 11 a.m. and Tampa had played the night before.

It's hard to understate the importance of Rodriguez's return. The Yankees are 18-18 since he suffered the injury and 19-23 since July 18, when they led the Orioles by 10 games and the Rays by 101/2. In the 11 games before he went on the DL, A-Rod hit .349 (15-for-43) with two homers, six RBIs and eight runs.

"I think it's important to get him back because he does a lot of different things to our lineup," Girardi said. "He's a presence in our lineup. We've had to stack lefties a lot. When you see Tampa, they have a lot of lefties in their bullpen that you have to deal with, so I think it does a lot to our lineup."

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