Move to DH has worked wonders for A-Rod
Coming off strong week, slugger is having his best season since '09
NEW YORK -- It was a torrid week at the plate for Alex Rodriguez.
He picked up his 3,000th career hit with a home run on Friday off Justin Verlander. Adding on his 1-for-4 in Sunday's 12-4 loss to the Tigers, Rodriguez went 8-for-17 with two home runs, eight RBIs and four walks in the first five games of the homestand. And there are still three games against the Phillies left on this homestand, beginning on Monday night.
"I think it's a streak that hitters go through," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said prior to Sunday's game. "Maybe the two days off [this past Monday and Tuesday] in Florida really helped. We've had some days off recently, but he seems to have responded very well to this."
While Friday night's homer to the opposite field seemed to drift into the bleachers with a purpose, there was no doubt about the three-run shot the right-handed-hitting Rodriguez hit off left-handed reliever Ian Krol in the third inning on Saturday night. A-Rod turned on that one, lining a bolt deep into the left-field seats.
After missing nearly two full seasons because of hip surgery and last year's suspension, Rodriguez is doing all this as a full-time designated hitter for the first time in his career. While A-Rod said he's still adjusting to the role, Girardi is watching him embrace it.
"I think part of it is accepting that that's what's best for you," Girardi said. "And saying, 'You know what? I'll get more at-bats, I'll be more productive if I'm not physically beat up. I'll probably be in 140 games as opposed to 120, 110.' And I think Alex has accepted that and knows that it's best for him and best for this team."
Rodriguez is currently sitting with a .282 batting average, a .384 on-base percentage, a .908 OPS, 14 homers, 40 RBIs and 40 runs scored on the season. He appears much more relaxed and selective at the plate.
"My approach hasn't changed all year," he said. "I try to get good pitches and hit them."
A-Rod has walked 1,275 times. Compare that to Bonds, who walked a record 2,558 times, or Ruth's 2,062. Neither of those sluggers reached 3,000 hits because of it, Ruth finishing 127 short and Bonds 65.
Rodriguez's current OPS and on-base percentage are his highest since 2009, when he helped the Yankees defeat the Phillies to win their only World Series title since Rodriguez was acquired from the Rangers in 2004.
"He's being extremely selective this year," Girardi said. "Sometimes maybe you're not sure what you're going to get when you haven't played in two years."
Rodriguez hasn't played in as many as 122 games since 2012. He played in only 44 games in 2013, missing the first 110 games of that season.
Among those games, he only started 27 at third base. He's only appeared in four games at third base this season, with the last coming on May 19.
Whatever offensive damage Rodriguez does in the future is going to be as a DH. He's well aware of that.
"I had a chance while I was serving my suspension to spend some time with Edgar Martinez, who's one of my old mentors," Rodriguez said. "He gave me a few tips. I spoke to a few other guys and did my homework. I'm still trying to adjust, but it's something I'm enjoying."
Martinez is the legendary right-handed hitter who spent his entire 18-year career with the Mariners. He started 1,396 games at DH and hit .312 for his career. Martinez, just appointed as Mariners hitting coach, was a veteran presence on the team when Rodriguez came up for the first time as an 18-year-old in 1994.
Lou Piniella, at Yankee Stadium on Saturday for Old-Timers' Day, was the Seattle manager back then and had Martinez, Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. on his roster. The latter is a lock to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame when he goes on the ballot for the first time in 2016.
"This kid [A-Rod] was a great player when we got him up there, him and Junior. They were the top of the totem pole," Piniella said. "He's had his troubles since then and had a monumental challenge coming into this year, no question about it. And so far, he's addressing it with flying colors and I'm so happy for him. I hope he stays healthy and I hope he continues to do well."