Alex Rodriguez is as intrigued as everybody else by what the Yankees will do when their projected starters return from injury.
“Everyone says they have a good problem, but nevertheless it is a problem,” the ESPN analyst said in an interview to promote Sunday night’s Red Sox-Yankees coverage. “When you’re playing over .700 ball for a period of time, in baseball we’re very superstitious, and you don’t want to change anything. So it’s going to be interesting how it plays out.”
In the meantime, the former Yankees third baseman and current special advisor is enjoying the surprising start the mix-and-match roster has fashioned.
“I love teams that put the ball in play,” Rodriguez said. “I love teams that are scrappy. I think the one stat that kind of explains who they are right now is the fact that D.J. LeMahieu is hitting almost .450 with men in scoring position and he has 20 hits, and 19 of them are singles and one double.
“I just love that. They tick-tock you to death and it’s fun to watch, and there is a lot of excitement.”
As Rodriguez said, the challenge for manager Aaron Boone will come when the injured stars return. Figuring out whom to sit will be tricky.
“If you look around, besides Gary Sanchez, I don’t think there’s one guy that was penciled in for what he’s been doing,” Rodriguez said. “Even guys like [Gleyber] Torres, he was slated to play second. I think [Clint] Frazier is an important guy, especially against lefties down the stretch. Luke Voit is awesome with his energy.
“You have two kids at third base with Miguel Andujar, who looked like he was on his way to being a perennial All-Star, and now [Gio] Urshela looks like a combination of [Scott] Brosius with the clutch gene of Luis Sojo.”
One key to making it all work, he said, is that the Yankees “have arguably the best bullpen in the game. This bullpen has been unhittable at times. [Zack] Britton looks like the old Britton. [Aroldis] Chapman is coming into his own. Everyone they’ve brought in has been lights out. It makes a good starter great.
“CC [Sabathia] is a great commodity, especially in October, because of the experience and the knowledge, and he’s pitching at a high level. If you give CC an opportunity just to go five or 5 1/3 innings, he can be really, really strong in October.”
Rodriguez last played in 2016, but his involvement with the Yankees has kept him close to the team and its personnel.
“I’m still in touch with so many guys in the clubhouse, and when it comes to our young players who have come through the farm system, I’ve seen them since they were teenagers in our farm system, a guy like Gary Sanchez or Torres or Frazier.
“So I feel like even though I haven’t played in a few years, there’s a connection there still.”
The defending champion Red Sox enter the series in the Bronx 7 ½ games behind the Yankees in the American League East, but Rodriguez cautioned against counting them out.
“I have a lot of trust in [manager] Alex Cora and [president Dave] Dombrowski,” he said. “Those guys understand winning. They understand human psychology. Look, there is a [post-championship] hangover. I always say if you can get past the first two months and get into Memorial Day within striking distance, I think you’re fine.
“I do think that Dombrowski is a guy who understands the July trade deadline as well as anybody. I always feel he’s just one move away. He is a dangerous poker player because he’s always willing to make a big move.”
Rodriguez and his announcing partners, Matt Vasgersian and Jessica Mendoza, will call Sunday night’s game from the “Judge’s Chambers” section in rightfield.
“I think it’s going to be fun,” Rodriguez said. “Any time you get to go to the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, that’s kind of a bucket list thing to do. I wish Aaron was not injured. That would have even made it better, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Might the announcers wear honorary judge robes for the occasion? “No, I don’t think so,” he said.
Rodriguez said fans have been “welcoming” about announcers calling a game from the stands, although in Houston the trio had trouble seeing all the action clearly.
This is the second full season for the Vasgersian/Rodriguez/Mendoza team, but the first with Mendoza also working as a Mets advisor.
Asked whether that has resulted in any Mets-Yankees trash talk, Rodriguez said, laughing, “There’s always trash talk.”
Rodriguez said he believes the Mets still can salvage a competitive season but that that team is more about the near future than the present.
“If you’re Brodie [Van Wagenen], I don’t think it’s really about 2019,” he said. “I said that when I interviewed him this spring. I think you have to give him three or four years to get his DNA into this team. He has a plan. It’s only fair. I will start judging Brodie in the middle of next year and see what things are developing.
“Look at the Yankees. It took some time. It seemed like they rebuilt in 30 seconds, but that plan, when we were all there, was started in the minor leagues. And now [GM Brian] Cashman has this incredible roster. I feel like the Yankees have this 60-man roster, which is incredible.
“But it’s taken Cashman a long time, and a lot of trust, and that comes from Hal Steinbrenner, who’s a great leader, and the combination of Hal Steinbrenner, [team president] Randy Levine and Brian Cashman. They just work really, really well together and everyone has a role and a responsibility, and everyone does it. It’s not this turnover and panic and everyone’s going to make moves every day.”
Does Rodriguez think his former infield-mate, now-Met Robinson Cano, still can contribute?
“I do,” he said. “I think that team with a healthy [Yoenis] Cespedes, Cano is a different guy as well. It’s really important to have a righthanded thump behind you . . . It’s not an individual sport. Everybody has to help each other.”