The Yankees have dealt with a ton of injuries this season, an inordinate amount even when you consider the average age of the roster. Some of those injuries have been short-term bumps-and-bruises, others long-term issues that could be career-altering. Alex Rodriguez hit the DL for the fifth time in five years in late-July, after Felix Hernandez hit him with a pitch that broke a bone in his left hand. It was an unfortunate and fluke injury, but an injury nonetheless.
A-Rod had been on a bit of a tear prior to the injury, going 22-for-66 (.333) with five doubles, a triple, and two homers in 17 games (16 starts) before getting hit in the hand. Half of those 16 starts featured multiple hits. Even though he is no longer the 30+ homer, .900+ OPS hitter he was even just three or four years ago, the Yankees missed their regular cleanup hitter. The lineup suddenly lacked middle of the order depth and became very left-handed. The offense definitely lacked some balance while Alex was on the shelf.
After six weeks on the shelf, A-Rod returned to the lineup earlier this month and picked up right where he left off before the injury. He’s gone 15-for-50 (.300) with two doubles and three homers in his 13 games back, reaching base in all 13 and picking up at least one hit in 12. It’s unfortunate that Rodriguez’s return coincided with Mark Teixeira’s calf injury — remember they brought him back after just two minor league rehab games because the lineup was going to be really short without Tex — because the Yankees are still short a power bat, but that just seems to be the way things have gone this season.
The important thing now is keeping A-Rod on the field, which is easier said than done. The Yankees had their final scheduled off-day of the season yesterday, and will wrap up the schedule with 16 games in 16 days. Derek Jeter is still nursing a left ankle problem and will occupy the DH spot for the foreseeable future, meaning Alex is going to have to play third base whenever he’s in the lineup. Joe Girardi has gone to great lengths to give his big right-handed bat regular rest, starting him in four straight games at the hot corner only twice this season: once during the NL park portion of interleague play in June, and these last four games while Jeter was the DH.
There is still no firm timetable for Teixeira to return to the lineup or the Cap’n to return to the field, so A-Rod is going to see a ton of time at third base these next two weeks simply because the team is going to need him. The race for a playoff spot (nevermind the division) is too tight to take his bat out of the lineup, especially when so many of the platoon bats near the bottom of the order have been so unproductive. Rodriguez has been an important player for the Yankees since the day they acquired him, and that will be no different in these next 16 days.