Girardi pencils A-Rod in at cleanup for Yankees

After three injury-plagued seasons, it would be completely understandable if Yankees manager Joe Girardi opted to temper his expectations from Alex Rodriguez heading into the 2012 season.

Girardi, however, is doing no such thing.

The Yankees manager said on Monday that he plans to bat Rodriguez in the cleanup role this spring, sandwiched in between Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira in the team’s batting order. Moreover, the fifth-year manager of the Bronx Bombers said that he’s expecting big-time production from his third baseman, as he believes that Rodriguez is ready to leave his injury troubles behind.

“I expect him to be extremely productive,” Girardi told the New York Daily News. “I don’t expect any fall off. If you were to take his numbers before he hurt his knee in Chicago (in June), they were pretty good. He was going to have a big year for us, and he never really got on track after he hurt it.”

The 36-year-old Rodriguez hit .295 with 13 home runs and 52 RBI in the first half of the 2011 season before having surgery on his right knee at the All-Star Break. A thumb injury in his first game back from that surgery kept him out until the latter stages of the regular season, where he hit .206 with three homer and 10 RBI in 18 games, finishing the year with a .276 batting average, 16 homers and 62 RBI. Rodriguez’s 99 games played were his lowest total since becoming a full-time major league player in 1996, and he hasn’t hit over .300 in season since 2008, the longest such drought of his major league career.

Cano hit .302 with 28 home runs and 118 RBI in 2011. Teixeira, meanwhile, hit a career-worst .248 last season, but was second on the team in homers with 39 and third with 111 RBI.