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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Yankees hope Alex Rodriguez delay keeps lineup humming

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez listens

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez listens to a question before a minor-league rehab start for the Trenton Thunder at Arm & Hammer Park Tuesday, May 24, 2016, in Trenton, N.J. Photo Credit: AP / Mel Evans

When Carlos Beltran’s majestic fourth-inning solo home run nestled into the second deck in rightfield at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night, a stray thought may have flashed through the minds of the Yankees’ brain trust.

How do we keep this guy as the designated hitter all season?

Beltran hits better when he’s the DH. There has been no doubt about that this season. But he has to play the outfield when Alex Rodriguez is around.

That’s one possible read on the Yankees’ quick-change decision yesterday to give A-Rod at least two rehab games at Double-A Trenton before activating him from the disabled list even though Joe Girardi admitted Rodriguez’s hamstring injury is a thing of the past.

Girardi said the Yankees want A-Rod “to knock the rust off” his swing. It’s also just as likely they want to keep a good thing with Beltran going for as long as possible.

As A-Rod went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in New Jersey’s capital city, Beltran went 1-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs in the Yankees’ sixth straight win, a 6-0 decision over Toronto. The Yankees, once eight games under .500, are 22-22.

Since A-Rod’s injury, the Yankees are 14-6. Beltran is batting .345 with six home runs and 19 RBIs as a DH, a position he detests.

“Being DH . . . I feel like I’m a part-time player,” Beltran said. “Right now it’s working for the team and that’s what it’s all about. Winning ballgames.”

Rodriguez is batting .194 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. His presence on the roster excites fans and gives talking heads something to yak about on an otherwise bland team.

But A-Rod’s presence in the lineup causes problems for Girardi — especially if Rodriguez is not producing at an acceptable level, which he hasn’t since last July.

Since Aug. 1, A-Rod has hit .192 with 14 home runs and 37 RBIs in 255 at-bats. And he has no other value other than his bat. (Entertainment value doesn’t count.)

So the Yankees had a chance to keep A-Rod off the roster, probably until Friday when the team opens a road trip at Tampa, and they leapt at it. Chances are he will return then, which will push Beltran back to the outfield.

Even though Beltran doesn’t want to hear it, he and the Yankees are best served when he leaves his glove in his locker. If you’re into advanced stats, Beltran has a defensive runs saved of minus-7, according to FanGraphs.com. As a centerfielder with the Mets in 2008, he was plus-17.

If you’re not into advanced stats but have eyes, you’ve seen Beltran’s lack of range. Hey, at 39, Beltran shouldn’t be asked to play the outfield every day. But there’s nothing else the Yankees can do when he and A-Rod are both healthy.

Why did the Yankees send A-Rod down the New Jersey Turnpike when Girardi had said he’d be activated by Tuesday night?

“We’re allowed to change our mind,” Girardi said. “We just felt, ‘Let’s do this.’ And then we can just take him on the road trip. We talked about it, and then I called Alex and said, ‘This is what we’d like to do.’ He said, ‘OK, whatever you think is best.’ ”

What’s best for the Yankees is for Rodriguez to produce like he did for the first four months of 2015. If he doesn’t, this era of good feelings between A-Rod and the Yankees might not last too much longer.

Remember, A-Rod has another year left on his contract at $21 million in 2017. The Yankees can stash him in Trenton for only so long. Definitely not for a year and a half. But if they could . . .

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