Alex Rodriguez is not in the Yankees’ lineup Sunday as the chase for homer No. 600 has stalled out, now at 37 at-bats and 42 plate appearances.
“He’s played 13 days in a row. We’ve got to make sure that we keep him healthy and strong,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Girardi said he had talked about DHing Rodriguez Saturday, but the Lance Berkman move changed those plans. Now, instead of DHing A-Rod in the future (and Derek Jeter, for that matter), the Yankees might just offer a full day off. Also, Girardi said he was concerned about playing Rodriguez three straight days on the artificial turf at Tropicana Field.
“The last time he played three days in a row on turf is when he hurt his hip flexor,” Girardi said.
Rodriguez is available to pinch-hit, but Girardi said it “would be wonderful” to give him a complete day off and not use him. See you at Yankee Stadium for 600, then?
Could be. One thing’s for sure — if Alex Rodriguez wants to hit No. 600 at Progressive Field, he’ll have to do it tonight. Otherwise, the catwalks of Tropicana Field could bear witness.
For his part, A-Rod said he’s enjoyed the outpouring of attention he has received here in Cleveland, where hundreds of Yankees fans seem to be roaming the streets wearing jerseys, t-shirts and caps (which makes it pretty much like every other city the Yankees visit).
“I just know that overall I’ve been very surprised with how supportive the fans have been in Cleveland,” Rodriguez said. “All the signs and all the support, it’s been pretty cool.”
A-Rod didn’t get to enjoy his 600th homer last night, but at least he got his 471st double out of the way. That one came on a ball hit to right field in the sixth inning, and the base popped loose when Rodriguez hit it with a headfirst slide, clutching it to his chest and grinning quizzically toward the Yankees dugout.
He later joked he thought the milestone he was looking for was doubles.
“The thing just popped right out. I’ve never seen that before, so it was pretty funny,” Rodriguez said.
Alex Rodriguez did a nice job on the homestand of not allowing the expecting eyes looking for 600 to take him out of his usual mode, save for the one swing where he tried to emulate Reggie Jackson and reward the fans for sitting through a two-hour plus rain delay.
But A-Rod is now 0-for-Cleveland
after taking a collar last night, grounding into a fielder’s choice that ended the game representing the tying run. And the mounting pressure of the hundreds of flashbulbs popping alongside every pitch, to say nothing of the specially-marked ‘R’ baseballs being delivered to the home plate umpire, might be having an effect.
Here’s what Rodriguez said last night:
“I think for me, the biggest thing is to stay within the game and not try to do too much. I think a few times over the last three or four days, I’ve kind of come out of it and tried to swing a little too hard, or maybe get a little pull-happy. As long as I swing at strikes and think [about] the big part of the field, like that ball to right-center [in the seventh inning], then good things are going to happen.
“I don’t think I’m really expanding my strike zone. Guys are throwing strikes and I think for the most part I’m swinging at strikes. What I want to do is let the ball travel a little bit and use my hands more.”
For what it’s worth, Indians closer Chris Perez said Monday that he was beginning to see a little different version of A-Rod:
“I went after him. I even threw him a hanging slider the second pitch. He took it. If there had been nobody on, I would have thrown him all heaters. I think he’s starting to feel it. He’s starting to get aggressive. That could be good for us. Throw a sinker down and in and let him roll over it.”