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Opposing scouts, talent evaluators unsure what Alex Rodriguez has left

Alex Rodriguez reacts as he walks back to

Alex Rodriguez reacts as he walks back to the dugout after flying out in a pinch-hit opportunity in the top of the sixth inning of Game 4 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. (Oct. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Despite the almost hyperventilating headlines in recent days, Alex Rodriguez is all but assured of returning to the Yankees next season.

"He's not going anywhere," general manager Brian Cashman reiterated Monday for what must have seemed like the 200th time since the Yankees' season ended Thursday.

And so the most relevant question becomes this: What kind of player can the Yankees expect to have in 2013?

Scouts and talent evaluators who watched the Yankees all season, including in the postseason, aren't entirely sure.

"Clearly in decline but was still at least a somewhat productive player when he was healthy," one scout said.

But the postseason was something entirely different, the scout said. A-Rod went 3-for-25, often looking lost at the plate. The Yankees, the scout added, "couldn't have done worse" with just about anyone else at bat.

The Yankees came to the same conclusion, pinch hitting for A-Rod in ALDS Games 3 and 4, then benching him for Game 5, and pinch hitting for him in ALCS Game 1 and benching him in Games 3 and 4. He wound up going 0-for-2 in Game 4.

Two talent evaluators mentioned the possibility that A-Rod was not 100 percent physically, though he and the Yankees have said he was healthy.

"No bat speed," an opposing talent evaluator said of the playoffs. "You wonder if there was something in his lower half."

A-Rod had hip surgery in 2009 but has maintained that the hip hasn't been an issue. He will turn 38 in July and has had a DL stint in each of the last five seasons. He sat out 36 games with a left fifth metacarpal fracture after being hit by a pitch July 24.

Rodriguez went 15-for-50 (.300) with three homers and 11 RBIs in the first 13 games after returning from that injury but then struggled to the finish line in the regular season, going 14-for-61 (.230) with no homers and two RBIs in the last 15 games.

Then it really got bad.

"Looked like his bat speed was much slower than in the regular season," said the other talent evaluator who raised the question of an injury. "Not sure if the wrist was 100 percent or not, but the bat speed was there before the injury. He could not get his front foot down in time on average fastballs."

That struggle was especially pronounced against righties, against whom he went 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts in the playoffs.

And that, another scout said, is the biggest issue when the Yankees look ahead to 2013. Rodriguez wasn't great against righties during the regular season, but at least there was some production. He hit .256 with a .326 on-base percentage and .391 slugging percentage with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 356 plate appearances against righties and was .308/.410/.514 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 173 plate appearances against lefties.

If you're the Yankees, the scout said, "You hope that was just a small sample size."

No date yet for CC

Cashman said a specific date had not yet been determined for when CC Sabathia will visit Dr. James Andrews to have his left elbow evaluated. "He'll see him in the next 10 days," he said.

Sabathia has pitched with a bone spur in the elbow since his days in Cleveland, and a decision will be made about whether it should be removed or shaved down. Either way, he is expected to be ready for spring training.

New York Sports