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A-Rod makes return to lineup, third base

August 21, 2011

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — He may have gone hitless in five at-bats, but Alex Rodriguez called his return to the lineup Sunday a “big success.”

Rodriguez was activated from the disabled list Sunday morning, and the three-time American League MVP batted cleanup and played third base for the Yankees in Sunday’s series finale against the Twins.

“His timing looked a little off,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “His timing is going to come with playing. He hit a ball on the screws, he just missed a couple balls a little bit, but that’s going to happen, too, whether you have your timing or not.

“But physically, he felt good, so that’s good.”

To make room for Rodriguez on the roster, the Yankees optioned left-hander Aaron Laffey to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Before deciding whether to activate Rodriguez, the Yankees wanted to see how he would respond following Saturday’s workout. Though he had no hits to show for it, Rodriguez swung the bat well.

“I was happy with the way I saw the ball,” Rodriguez said. “I was happy with my balance, and I definitely got a lot of good pitches to hit. I just missed them by a little bit, but I liked the way I felt today.”

Since joining the club in the Twin Cities on Thursday, Rodriguez has said he felt most comfortable swinging a bat, while needing the most work defensively and running the bases.

Rodriguez said over three days of workouts at Target Field that he felt a bit “tentative” out there, but he said he did not feel that way Sunday in his first game action in six weeks.

In the sixth inning, Rodriguez was tested by Twins leadoff hitter Ben Revere, who laid down a bunt toward third. Rodriguez made an impressive barehanded play, and fired the ball to first for the out.

“That was a good test because he runs so well,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a play that I’m going to have to make, so it was good to make it.

“It’s going to happen, it’s not going to stop now. I think for the next two weeks, I’m going to have to make that play over and over again.”

Girardi was very impressed with what he saw from his third baseman on that play.

“That’s a tremendous play,” Girardi said. “I didn’t think he was going to get him. I really didn’t, with Revere’s speed. So, that tells me the knee’s pretty good.”

Whether he will play more at third base or as a designated hitter, for now, will depend on how Rodriguez feels on a daily basis. Girardi said he was curious to talk to Rodriguez on Monday to see how he responds after his first game in six weeks.

With Rodriguez out of the lineup this season, the Yankees went 25-13, but having the slugger batting cleanup makes them that much tougher.

In 80 games before going on the disabled list, Rodriguez batted .295 with an .852 OPS, while hitting 13 home runs and collecting 52 RBIs.

“This is the middle of the order hitter,” Girardi said. “This guy’s been a run producer for years and years and years. Before he hurt his knee, his home runs were good, his RBIs were good. Once he hurt his knee, his power kind of went away a bit, but he’s been productive.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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