Alex Rodriguez’s return to the lineup on Monday couldn’t have come at a more welcome time for the New York Yankees.
A lot has changed since the broken left hand he suffered on July 24 shelved the perennial All-Star third baseman. The Yankees’ once 10-game lead in the American League East has been whittled down to two, with stars Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson also out with injuries.
“I feel like Big Brother was away for a while,” Rodriguez said before Monday’s game between the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. “We have a couple of other brothers that are coming back soon. I think we’re right where we want to be.”
Eric Chavez had been his primary replacement at third, but has played extremely in Rodriguez’s absence, leading some to question whether or not he should remain in the lineup.
Rodriguez, who was in Monday’s lineup as the DH and batting cleanup, stressed that he was there to do his part.
“I’m not here to save the day,” he said. “I’m here to be part of a winning team.”
The Yankees, though, are looking for him to re-energize a lineup that has gone flat recently.
With Rodriguez back, “You have to look at how you’re going to pitch to the guys in front of him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You know at any point he can change the complexion of the game with one swing, and you have to be concerned about that as the opposing pitcher.”
This season has not been one of Rodriguez’s best, as he’s hitting just .276 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs.
But New York struggled in the absence of his big right-handed bat in the lineup, going 18-18 over that span to help both the Baltimore Orioles and the Rays close to within striking distance as the regular season winds down.
Rodriguez laughed when asked if his job was now to save the Yankees’ season.
“I’m just excited to be back,” he said. “I hit cleanup for a reason and they expect me to do what I do, be very productive and help this team win. If that means a sacrifice fly or drawing a walk or a three-run homer, whatever it takes to make this team better, that’s what I’m willing to do.”