A-Rod returns to Yankees lineup amid tight playoff race
St. Petersburg, FL, United States (4E Sports) – The New York Yankees are expected to get a much-needed boost with the return of slugger Alex Rodriguez amid a tight race in the American League East for a playoff spot.
Rodriguez returned from a 36-game absence due to a broken left hand Monday and went 1-for-4 with an RBI but the Yankees lost to the Tampa Bay Rays that trimmed their lead over the Baltimore Orioles to one game.
“It’s exciting; it’s definitely exciting,” Rodriguez told MLB.com. “I’m thrilled to be back. You get the game taken away from you for five weeks and you feel like a little kid coming back. I’m just blessed to be back.”
The Yankees need Rodriguez to add depth in the lineup and stabilize a team that lost nine of its last 13 games and saw its AL East lead cut to one.
The Yankees were leading the division by eight games July 24 but went 18-18 after the All-Star third baseman’s left hand was hit by a pitch from Mariners hurler Felix Rodriguez.
“I’m not here to save the day,” Rodriguez said. “I’m here to be part of a winning team; as it’s always been.”
Rodriguez is expected to provide right-handed power for the Yankees, who have been inconsistent with their offense, with Mark Teixeira out and Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson playing through pain.
“You hope he makes the lineup deeper,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told MLB.com. “I know he hasn’t played in a while; he hasn’t played in six weeks, and we’re just looking for quality at-bats from him. I can’t tell you what exactly is going to happen today, but that’s our hope.”
“That’s what I’m here to do,” Rodriguez said. “The flow of the game sometimes will take a few days to make sure you get back in the swing of things. I am here for a reason and they expect me to do what I do, and that’s to be very productive and help this team win.”
Before the injury, Rodriguez was hitting only .276 with 15 home runs and 44 runs batted but in his last 11 games, he hit .349 (15 for 43) with four doubles, two home runs and six runs batted in.
“I thought I was on my way to doing what I’ve always done,” he said. “The last 10 days we talked about were pretty good, and without a question in my mind if I didn’t get hurt I would be where I am all the time.”