With suspension a factor, Cashman always considering outside options
CHICAGO -- Throughout everything, from the performance-enhancing drug suspension to the hip surgeries and late-season struggles at the plate last year, there have been plenty of questions about how the Yankees can expect to benefit from having Alex Rodriguez back in their lineup.
Whatever the gain is, general manager Brian Cashman is expecting the Yankees' lineup with Rodriguez to be better than it was without him.
"I think if he's healthy, he's definitely going to be, by far, better than what we've been running out there," Cashman said. "He hasn't been [an MVP-type player] for a while, but he has been an above-average player at that position. And obviously, we've been below average at that position all year, so it'd be nice if we could get at least that. I don't know. But I know he'll be better than what we've been running out there."
A-Rod wasn't playing that position -- third base -- on Tuesday during a 3-2 loss to the White Sox, instead slotting into the No. 3 spot in New York's order as the designated hitter. In his first game back, on Monday, Rodriguez hit cleanup and played third.
"I just thought with kind of a long game [Monday], I chose to DH him," manager Joe Girardi said. "We'll put him back at third base tomorrow. But I just felt -- I didn't even ask him, but he did say he felt good today -- I didn't even ask him. I just thought it was a good idea."
Girardi said he intends to use Rodriguez at third base more than as a DH. Before the three-time American League MVP was activated from the disabled list on Monday, Yankees third basemen this season had combined for four homers (29th in the Majors), 32 RBIs (30th), a .215 average (29th) and a .557 slugging percentage (30th).
In his first two games, Rodriguez has gone 2-for-6 with a strikeout. He may not be expecting MVP numbers of himself, but he expects to hit better than he did late last season, when he batted .261 in September and October and was eventually benched in the playoffs. Rodriguez went 3-for-25 with 12 strikeouts in seven postseason games against the Orioles and Tigers.
"If you remember the last three months, I was pretty horrific," Rodriguez said after Tuesday's game. "It was a pretty poor season. I've told these guys all the time -- it ended as ugly as it could end. I couldn't even put the ball in play, especially in the playoffs. Overall, it feels good to be healed up and swinging the bat better."
On Monday, the 14-time All-Star received a suspension through the 2014 regular season for violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and Basic Agreement due to his ties to the anti-aging Biogenesis clinic in South Florida. Rodriguez has said he will appeal the suspension, which would go into effect on Thursday, and he can play until a final decision is made by an arbitrator.
Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program was for his "use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances," while his additional suspension under the Basic Agreement was for attempting to cover up his violations.
Cashman said the Yankees will operate under the assumption that they'll have Rodriguez for the remainder of the season, as his appeal goes to arbitration. The GM said he's taken the possible suspension into consideration when scouting the secondary market to help the Yankees down the stretch, but he needed to wait until after Monday to see where some chips may fall.
"We will be looking into that," Cashman said of the secondary market. "I certainly wasn't sure what was going to happen. We had to get through yesterday because obviously there's always a domino effect. Are you going to have Alex? Are you not going to have Alex? That certainly affects what your needs are and what you're looking for and, 'Should you stop looking?' But we'll continue to see what's available. I don't know if anything's going to be there for us or not."