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A-Rod makes return to lineup, third base

August 21, 2011 Comments off

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.

Yankees notebook, 8/19

August 19, 2011 Comments off

A-Rod more likely to return Sunday

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Alex Rodriguez still hopes to be back in the Yankees’ lineup this weekend, but it is now likely that he will wait until Sunday, rather than returning Saturday.”I would probably lean against doing it [Saturday] because he’s going to have that workout,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “[It could be] Sunday or Tuesday, or whenever he’s ready.”

Rodriguez worked out again Friday at Target Field, fielding grounders, running first to third, and going through a number of other drills.

With the workout being more intense than the one he went through Thursday, Rodriguez made significant progress toward a return.

“We’re definitely getting close. Today was very encouraging,” Rodriguez said. “I think everything was better. … The biggest thing today was going first to third. I thought I did much better today than yesterday, and just recovery, overall.”

While he understands the need to do what is best for his health and what is best for the team, Rodriguez admits that he is anxious to get back on the field again soon.

“I’m hungry, I want to get back out there,” Rodriguez said. “These guys, the way they’re playing, it’s inspiring. For me, the idea is to make sure that I’m ready to go, hit the ground running, and never look back and just have a great next two months.”

Yanks add Laffey, place Garcia on DL

MINNEAPOLIS — The Yankees claimed left-handed reliever Aaron Laffey off waivers from the Mariners on Friday, after Laffey had been designated for assignment earlier in the week.

Laffey will join the club Saturday, and will take the roster spot of Yankees starter Freddy Garcia, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list — retroactive to Aug. 8 — with a cut on the index finger of his right hand.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Laffey, the Yankees also designated catcher Gustavo Molina for assignment. Garcia, who threw well in a bullpen session before Friday’s game against the Twins, did not seem happy about the move when talking to reporters after the move was announced.

“Whatever’s better for the team and for me,” Garcia said. “That’s the choice they make, and that’s the way it is, man.”

Rather than pitch this weekend for the Yankees, Garcia will make a rehab start Monday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is expected to start one of the games of next Saturday’s doubleheader at Baltimore.

As for Laffey, he will fill a bullpen role for the Yankees. Laffey made 36 relief appearances this season for the Mariners, posting a 1-1 record with a 4.01 ERA. Laffey has made 49 starts in 115 career games with the Indians and Mariners, and could be a spot-starter candidate for the Yankees as well if needed.

“He’s a guy that can give you some multiple innings,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “But he’s another left-hander for us, and that’s why we went and got him.”

CC focused on arm angle in latest win

MINNEAPOLIS — As he went through the Twins’ lineup the first time Thursday night, CC Sabathia struggled, getting hit hard and even giving up a long home run that was later ruled a foul ball.

His second time through the lineup, though, Sabathia was dominant. What was the difference between the first two innings and the next three for the Yankees’ ace?

“Just trying to make sure my arm angle was good,” Sabathia said. “I felt like I was kind of slinging the ball early, and a little bit late.”

In addition to his focusing on his arm angle, a key pitch helped Sabathia as he took control of the game in the middle innings.

“I thought his slider was a little bit better,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. “I thought that helped him a lot. He threw some down and in to righties, and away from lefties. But he started commanding his fastball a little better, too.”

Jones attributes turnaround to mom’s advice

MINNEAPOLIS — Since the All-Star break, Andruw Jones has looked nothing like the hitter that batted just .195 through the first half of the season.

Jones has hit .349 over 19 games (12 starts), collecting 15 hits in 43 at-bats while also walking nine times. Four of those hits have been home runs for Jones, who also has a pair of doubles and 13 RBIs over that stretch.

The change, Jones said, is the result of advice given to him by his mother.

“Right after the All-Star break, I went home and looked at some old tape,” Jones said. “My mom called me and said ‘Look at your old tapes. I’m not liking the way your legs hit.’ So I kind of opened up a little bit and made an adjustment trying to be more quiet and more on time. Everything’s working good since the All-Star break.”

One of Jones’ four home runs came Thursday night, a towering shot into the third deck in left field that impressed teammates, coaches, fans and media members alike.

Said manager Joe Girardi of Jones’ homer: “He’s got unbelievable power.”

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

A-Rod back with team, but not yet ready

August 18, 2011 Comments off

By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com

MINNEAPOLIS — Alex Rodriguez was back with the Yankees on Thursday in Minnesota, but it will likely be until at least Saturday before he’s back in the lineup.

Rodriguez, who had surgery on July 11 to repair torn meniscus in his right knee, worked out Thursday afternoon at Target Field, and said he was happy just to be back with his teammates. He said he’s comfortable right now swinging the bat, and that his fielding and conditioning need the most work.

“If I felt like hitting was the one thing that was most behind, it would probably be productive to be down in either Tampa or Scranton and get in a bunch of at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “This situation’s a little bit rare, where conditioning’s the most important thing and fielding’s the most important thing, and those are things that I can do here with our staff.”

When he does return, Rodriguez likely will see time as the Yankees’ designated hitter along with playing third base.

Communication between the three-time American League MVP and Yankees manager Joe Girardi will be important in putting him in the right position each day to help him get back to normal.

“We could DH him a day, play him in the field, DH him a day. Just constant communication,” Girardi said. “If he needs a day off, I’ll give him a day off. But he’s been out for six weeks. You’re not working out that whole six weeks. He had to rest for some of that.”

Rodriguez worked extensively on fielding Thursday, while also doing some running work in the outfield with strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea. Also on the schedule for Rodriguez was some work before Thursday’s game in the weight room, and another on-field session Friday afternoon.

“What we did today is probably the most productive day that I’ve had in about a week,” Rodriguez said. “We’re on a big league field with a big league staff, and I was able to actually go out and run as close to 100 percent as I’ve had since post-surgery.”

Before the surgery, Rodriguez was hitting .295 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs. He also had 67 walks and 32 strikeouts.

While he was hitting for a high average, Rodriguez saw his power numbers decline, in part due to the pain in his knee, which forced him to use his hands more, rather than staying back on the ball.

When he returns, Rodriguez hopes to once again be the big bat in the middle of the Yankees’ lineup.

“To be the productive hitter that I’ve always been, being in the middle of the lineup and really give us a shot in the arm driving in big runs and hitting home runs,” Rodriguez said of his expectations. “I think that’s the reason we chose to have the operation. I was swinging the bat well and producing and getting hits, but my value is to do a lot more than just get base hits.”

While injuries have forced him to miss a number of games in the past few years, Rodriguez still sees himself as an everyday third baseman, and one that can hit 30 home runs and collect 100 RBIs.

“Cal Ripken was always my role model, and he played until what, 40, 41?” said Rodriguez, who turned 36 while he was on the DL. “You can always find a guy that has a little bit more range at third. But if you can be a guy who can produce 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs and make 10 or 12 errors, I think anybody will sign up for that.”

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

Column 11/3

November 3, 2009 Comments off

Schelling: A-Rod conquered steroids, playoffs

A Schelling for your Thoughts
The Badger Herald