SAN DIEGO — When Joe Girardi kept Carlos Beltran out of Wednesday’s game against the Rangers because of a tight right hamstring, with the Yankees soon headed to a National League ballpark, he called the injury “worrisome.” That feeling has only been reinforced.
“He’s improving, but he’s not where he needs to be,” Girardi said before Friday night’s game against the Padres. “As I’ve said the last few days, this was worrisome for me because he has to play the field. If he was DHing, it might be a little bit quicker, but we have to make sure he’s OK before we run him out there.”
Meaning, Girardi said, he thought an appearance by Beltran during this three-game series would be unlikely, other than, perhaps, as a pinch hitter. “My hope is maybe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t play,” he said.
Actually, Beltran did play Friday night, contributing a one-out double near the end of a four-run ninth inning in the Yankees’ 7-6 loss to the Padres. He stayed in the game — Girardi told Masahiro Tanaka to get loose and prepare for a pinch-running opportunity but chose not to use him — but was stranded at third after groundouts by Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.
Beltran, 39, far and away the Yankees’ most productive and most consistent hitter this season, said even if this series included a designated hitter, he wouldn’t be ready to play.
“No, I can’t run,” said Beltran, who did some light jogging on the treadmill Thursday. “DH, you have to be able to go from first to third. Right now, the way I feel, I can’t do that. I have to make sure that when I do it, I don’t think about it.”
That’s not to say Beltran, who leads the Yankees in home runs (19), RBIs (53) and slugging percentage (.570), believes he needs a stint on the disabled list. “[On Thursday], it was better than the day before, so I’m improving,” he said. “But I need to make sure when I’m in, I’m in [to stay]. I just don’t want to push it and make it worse. I just want to make sure that I’m back in the lineup and playing rightfield and doing whatever Joe wants me to do.”
Girardi also doesn’t expect Beltran to land on the DL. “I don’t think we’re planning on that,” he said. “I hope not. I’d be surprised if it was a DL thing. It feels better, it’s not as sore, but he still feels it.”
Beltran’s inability to play the field does mean Girardi essentially is playing with a 23-man roster in this series, as Alex Rod riguez is strictly a DH at this point in his career.
Not that the Yankees will miss A-Rod’s bat — he entered Friday night with a .219/.257/.382 slash line, eight homers and 27 RBIs in 47 games, although he had a pinch-hit single in the ninth — but it still is nice to have position-player options.
Aaron Hicks again started in rightfield for Beltran. Hicks is an upgrade in the field over Beltran in terms of his arm, range and overall athleticism, but he’s had a season-long struggle at the plate. Entering Friday night, Hicks had a .200/.264/.306 slash line, three homers and 15 RBIs.
Hicks’ difficulties are similar to what Beltran experienced in his first month of 2015 but not since. Beltran is the only Yankees position player with any hope of making this month’s All-Star Game.
“Right now, that’s the last thing I have on my mind,” said Beltran, an eight-time All-Star. “I’m trying to get back in the lineup and hopefully help the team win ballgames.”
But, he added with a smile, “If it happens, it will be great.”