Since losing Alex Rodriguez on July 24, Joe Girardi has been forced to frequently use left-handed hitters when making out his lineup card.
Those days could be soon be ending as Girardi said before Sunday’s game that there is a good chance Rodriguez returns Monday in Tampa. There is not a definitive decision on Rodriguez’s return from a fractured left hand but all indications are he will return at some point during the three-game series in Tampa Bay.
Rodriguez has appeared in two rehab games for Single-A Tampa, going hitless in seven at-bats. He skipped playing in a game Sunday because of the 11 a.m. start time, but was having a “big work day” and if he does not return Monday, Rodriguez will appear in another rehab game.
“It’s important to get him back because he does a lot of different things for our lineup,” Girardi said. “He’s a presence in our lineup. We’ve had to stack lefties a lot. We’re going to see Tampa; they have some lefties in their bullpen that you have to deal with. I think it does a lot for your lineup.”
So far the reports from Rodriguez’s rehab have been good. The process has sped up considerably in the last week. A week ago, Rodriguez had not even progressed to taking batting practice on the field.
Combined with the absence of Mark Teixeira (calf), the cleanup spot has had a unique look to it in the last week. Saturday Eric Chavez batted cleanup, sandwiched around fellow lefties Robinson Cano and Raul Ibanez.
Chavez made his first start at cleanup, marking the seventh different player to hit cleanup for the Yankees this year.
“It’s not something in my tenure here that we’ve had to do a lot,” Girardi said. “In 2008 we had a lot of injuries to our pitching staff but positionally we were pretty good. This year it seems that we’ve had a little bit of both with our pitching staff and position players and we’ve had to put some guys in there that usually don’t hit fourth. It’s what we’ve had to do.”
Pettitte throws, more encouraged
Andy Pettitte could not predict a date for his return from a fractured ankle but yet, but throwing a bullpen session and not thinking about pushing off his foot while throwing was definitely a good sign for the left-hander.
“I can’t put a percentage on it,” he said. “I pushed off of it a little bit. I threw 35 pitches today and I felt really good. I felt like my command was real good.”
The next step according to Pettitte could be facing hitters while throwing some batting practice. That will not be decided until he consults with the doctors.
Regardless of the next step, Pettitte has been talking in more upbeat tones following his recent rehab sessions. He also said that the best thing he took out of Sunday’s session was throwing without thinking too much about pushing off.
“I’m trying not to think about it so I think that’s a good thing,” Pettitte said. “I’m getting to the place where I’m not trying to think about it as much. So I definitely think I pushed a lot harder today than I did the other day.”
Girardi is not quite ready to map out an exact timetable, but like his pitcher, he can see the end of the rehab process in sight.
“I think that’s he making a lot of progress now,” Girardi said. “The fact that he’s off a mound that he’s comfortable and he’s recovering fine tells you that he’s on the path to getting back. The next step, we’ll have to wait and see exactly what it is, but I imagine he’ll do some kind of throwing in the next few days.”
Granderson sits as precaution
The Yankees remained relieved that Curtis Granderson’s hamstring injury was not what they feared the most.
Instead of a pull or a tear, it is simply tendinitis and the combination of rest and medication is expected to cure it for Granderson in the next few days.
That is why Granderson missed Sunday’s game. Granderson, who just finished hitting .196, has missed just one game all year.
When he struck out Saturday that marked his 159th of the year and 60th in 167 at-bats following the All-Star break.
“We’re gonna have to give him a day or two," Girardi said. “I’m not so sure if he’ll play tomorrow, we’ll have to check. The good thing is he didn’t pull anything, but we’re gonna have to give him a day or two.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.