Girardi: A-Rod could get extra ABs in Minors games
Veteran will compete with Jones for DH role; could serve as backup first baseman
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees authorized some remodeling in their Spring Training clubhouse over the offseason, knocking out a wall and expanding the available floor space, but Alex Rodriguez's locker was returned to its old familiar location, where it awaits the slugger's arrival.
Rodriguez is expected to be here next week, with position players set to report on Wednesday, and that is about the only definite that the Yankees are banking on right now. Manager Joe Girardi sees Rodriguez getting his at-bats as a designated hitter, but he doesn't know what to expect over the next seven weeks.
"I haven't really put any numbers on it," Girardi said. "I think it's fair to give him a fair number of at-bats before you start to judge where you think he might be at. He's played 44 games in two years and did not play last year. I think it's going to take him a good part of Spring Training just to get his timing down."
Rodriguez, who is six homers shy of tying Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the all-time list, will turn 40 in July and has had his mobility impacted by surgery on both hips. As a result, the Yanks are thinking of Rodriguez more as a designated hitter than a third baseman, and he is slated to compete with Garrett Jones for those plate appearances.
"He's going to need to get his at-bats," Girardi said. "Will it come to a point where we have to send him to the Minor Leagues to get eight at-bats one day, maybe, to try to catch him up and speed up the process? It is a balance. We will have to balance, and communication is extremely important."
Girardi said that Rodriguez "is on our roster," and so it is possible that the Yankees could enter the season with Jones as the primary DH against righties and Rodriguez DHing against lefties, against whom he struggled during his abbreviated 2013 season (.585 OPS in 50 at-bats) but has historically hit well.
Rodriguez's Instagram account has featured photos that showed him taking ground balls at third base during workouts, and in a best-case scenario, the Yanks believe he might be able to help back up Chase Headley. Girardi has also floated the idea of having Rodriguez take his glove to first base as a backup for Mark Teixeira.
"That will be a conversation I have when he gets here, because I can have the conversation over the phone, but I can't see his face and reaction," Girardi said. "I want to have it in person. Everything that he said, he's willing to do everything to help us, and that's what you want from your players."
Girardi said that he believed Rodriguez's recent hand-written letter to fans served as an apology to the game as a whole, and the skipper said that he does not know how Rodriguez will be impacted by playing without the help of performance-enhancing drugs.
"I don't know what it's like to be on them, so I wouldn't know what it's like to be off them," Girardi said. "It's hard for me to judge. It's hard for me to try to play God and see what it's like to be Alex Rodriguez. I can't do that. Hopefully he's in a good place when he gets to camp, he gets the initial week behind him, and it gets more back to business for him and he can just go about his work."