Alex Rodriguez returned to the Yankees’ starting lineup for their AL championship series opener against Detroit on Saturday night, dropped to sixth in the batting order.
Rodriguez was 2 for 16 with no RBIs in the division series against Baltimore, going hitless in 12 at-bats against right-handed pitchers with nine strikeouts. Manager Joe Girardi pinch hit for him in Game 3 and 4.
”This is a guy we know can do a lot of damage,” Girardi said. ”I talk about sometimes going with my gut and evaluating what I see and different things you take into account when you made the lineup up, talk to people, and I think he’s raring to go.”
The 37-year-old third baseman had not hit as low as sixth since Joe Torre batted him eighth in the fourth and final game of the 2006 AL division series against the Tigers, according to STATS LLC. He went 0 for 3. A-Rod last hit sixth in Game 2 that year against Detroit, going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Detroit has four right-handers in its rotation. Rodriguez entered the series 1 for 9 in his regular and postseason career against Game 1 starter Doug Fister, 0 for 3 against Anibal Sanchez, 8 for 30 with three homers against Justin Verlander and 1 for 12 against Max Scherzer.
Rodriguez is 10 for 66 (.152) with no homers and six RBIs in postseason play over the last three years. He hasn’t homered in 84 at-bats since Sept. 14.
”We need this guy to be Alex,” Girardi said. ”That’s the bottom line. If we want to make some noise, we need this guy to be Alex.”
Girardi picked Hiroki Kuroda to start Game 2 on Sunday, when Detroit goes with Anibal Sanchez. The 37-year-old Kuroda has never started on short rest in his big league career, STATS said.
”I’m not too concerned. I prepare myself as the next game that I’m going to pitch is my last,” he said through a translator. ”I have always taken that approach, so I am just going to do the same for tomorrow.”
Phil Hughes is slated to start against AL Cy Young Award and MVP winner Justin Verlander in Game 3 on Tuesday in Detroit, with CC Sabathia down for Game 4 the following night against Max Scherzer. Kuroda could pitch on short rest again if there is sixth game.
Girardi decided not to pitch Sabathia on short rest in Game 3, but might bring him back on three days’ rest for a seventh game on Oct. 21, which Verlander likely would start for Detroit.
”You want to bring him on short rest now? Or if you need to do it later, do you want to do it later?” Girardi said.
NOTES: The Yankees added reliever Cody Eppley to their active roster and dropped INF Eduardo Nunez. Adding Eppley gives the Yankees 12 pitchers for the series. The 27-year-old right-hander was 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 46 innings over 59 relief appearances. Nunez was 1 for 5 in the five-game division series win over Baltimore, starting Game 2 as the designated hitter and coming into two other games off the bench.