BOSTON — Put on the defensive a second straight day for keeping Alex Rodriguez on the bench, an at times testy Joe Girardi said his job isn’t to put on a “farewell tour,” and blamed the media for inflaming a situation that ownership created.
“I’m not saying that I don’t think I can win with Alex in the lineup,” Girardi said before Wednesday night’s game against the Red Sox. “What I’m saying is that I’m putting out what I feel is the best lineup. That is in my job description. My job description does not entail a farewell tour. My job description is to try and win every game and put everyone in the best possible position and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Girardi sent up Rodriguez to pinch hit for Aaron Hicks in the seventh inning with none out, runners on first and second and the Yankees trailing 4-2. A-Rod launched a fly ball to rightfield that was deep enough to let Gary Sanchez advance to third. The Yankees scored five times in the inning to take a 6-4 lead.
Girardi said Rodriguez would start Thursday night against Red Sox lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez — a replacement for knuckleballer Steven Wright, who was scratched — and Friday night at home against Tampa Bay, scheduled to be the slugger’s final game, at least as a Yankee.
A-Rod has good numbers against Rodriguez — 5-for-13 with a homer — making Friday’s matchup against Rays righthander Chris Archer slightly less relevant (A-Rod is 2-for-15, both homers, vs. Archer).
“You have a responsibility to baseball because there are teams fighting for [playoff] spots and you have to do what you feel is the best, and that becomes difficult,” Girardi said, making it almost sound as if playing A-Rod is akin to waving a white towel. “Tampa is in a situation where they’re pretty far behind, so that’s different.”
Girardi also criticized the media for “playing both sides of the fence.” The manager, before the struggling Rodriguez was turned into a platoon DH and then a seldom-used bench player, was peppered with questions about why the 41-year-old kept getting playing time.
Since Sunday’s announcement, that Rodriguez would be unconditionally released and then become an adviser to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, the questions have been about why he isn’t playing.
“I think people are playing both sides of this because I think it creates a story and that’s obviously, and I get it, your job is to create stories,” Girardi said.
It was pointed out a big part of the story was of his own making. On Sunday, Girardi said he would “find a way” to play Rod riguez in all four of his final games if those were his wishes.
“I corrected myself yesterday, I got caught up in my emotions, and I apologized for that, OK?” Girardi said Wednesday.
His voice steadily rose as he continued.
“I’m aware of what my quotes were, that there would be conversations and I would try to get him in every game, I said that,” Girardi said. “But what I’m saying is, I made a mistake. And I’m admitting that. And I’m admitting that to everyone who’s watching because I have a responsibility and I’m trying to take care of my responsibility.”
Steinbrenner, wanting to spare Rodriguez from the embarrassment of an outright release, came up with the idea of Friday’s send-off at the Stadium. “That was something that was between him and Hal and the powers to be,” Girardi said.
Asked if he resented being put in this position by ownership, Girardi said, “It’s part of it. I’m lucky to be the manager of the New York Yankees.”
Girardi was perhaps the only person in the organization with whom Rodriguez didn’t clash in 2013 when he became ensnared in the Biogenesis scandal and initiated lawsuits. Girardi doesn’t doubt that the last month has done damage to his relationship with A-Rod.
“I think maybe in the long run it won’t, but I think in the short term it’s been difficult,” Girardi said. “I said it yesterday, when you’re the guy that’s telling someone ‘no,’ you’re usually the guy people vent their anger at.”
Rodriguez didn’t dispute that the pair’s relationship might have been strained. “I’ll keep all that private,” he said. “The last 72 hours, I’m enjoying the game. I’ll cherish any opportunity I get to play.”
How would he describe his relationship with Girardi?
“I’m just going to keep it about the game.”
As for the “farewell tour’’ comment, Rodriguez didn’t respond, either.
“Um, here’s the bottom line,” he said. “I would cherish any opportunity they give me. I’m working hard. I hope I get a few and I’ll be ready when my number’s called.”
With David Lennon