Joe Girardi’s usual procedure when notifying players about lineup changes is to call or text them the night before. Last night, he did not notify Alex Rodriguez about anything and that meant he remained as the team’s third-place hitter.
“Players are pretty aware if I’m going to make a change,” Girardi said at his press conference before Game 3. “I’ll let them know the night before or early that day. He probably assumed since there was no phone call or no texting that he was in the No. 3 spot. Now I didn’t tell him he was going to DH, but that’s not a big deal.
The news may come as a disappointment for some segments of the rabid Yankee fan base but for Girardi, moving Rodriguez somewhere else in the lineup had other ramifications. The only change he made was making Rodriguez the DH and putting Eric Chavez at third base.
“There are different things that you have to worry about and sometimes moving one player causes you to move two or three or maybe even four because our lineup is built around somewhat protecting our left-handed hitters from matchups and that’s a concern too.
“So I know people talk about why don’t you just do this, it’s not always so easy as just moving one guy when you change the lineup.”
Moving Robinson Cano up to the third spot could have also impacted the successful tandem of Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki at the top of the order. Since Ichiro bats left-handed, and Girardi tries to avoid having consecutive left-handed hitters, Ichiro might have led off and Jeter might have batted second, making the lineup somewhat more susceptible to double-play grounders.
Rodriguez is 1-for-9 with a walk and five strikeouts during the first two games. In that period he has seen 47 pitches from four Orioles, though his biggest outs have been strikeouts against relievers Jim Johnson and Darren O’Day.
“I trust our guys,” Girardi said. “I’m with him every day. I see their approach every day and it’s important that they trust me. The other thing is we played playoff baseball the whole month of September and the first three days of the October and Alex hit third and we won a lot of games with a lineup that we kept consistent.”
As for other Yankees, they seemed to tune out the constant harping of Rodriguez’s lineup position from phone calls to sports talk radio and comments on social networking sites.
“I don’t pay attention,” Jeter said. “I don’t read the papers; I don’t watch TV. I don’t do any of that during the playoffs and pretty much during the season.
Hughes to start Game 4
Phil Hughes has made three postseason starts. The first was seven shutout innings against the Twins in the 2010 division series clincher and the next two were 8 2/3 disappointing innings in the ALCS against the Rangers.
The Rangers battered Hughes for 11 runs and 14 hits. They also drew eight walks off him and knocked him out before the fifth was over each time, including in the 6-1 loss that ended the 2010 season for the Yankees.
Hughes will get a chance to pitch in the postseason regardless of what happened Wednesday night. Girardi said that win or lose he will start Game 4 on Thursday night.
“I try to forget about them,” Hughes said of the ALCS starts. “You don’t really want to linger on the negative. But every postseason start and things like that is an experience and something I can learn from. But it’s a different team, different lineup and I think I kind of know what to expect going into this and that’s something I can certainly learn from.”
Hughes made four starts against Baltimore and 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA while allowing five home runs in 22 2/3 innings. He gave up two home runs to Mark Reynolds at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 2, but rebounded five days later by allowing two earned runs in six innings of an 8-5 win.
Hughes had a 5.19 ERA last month but the main concern with not starting him is using Andy Pettitte on three days rest.
“I have my concerns about it,” Girardi said. “He talked about what his schedule was today and I told him what our plans were. This is a guy that’s coming off an injury, didn’t have a ton of starts and threw as many pitches the other day as he’s thrown in a while. He’s 40 years old, so I do have some concerns about that.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.