After the events of the previous three days, the biggest mystery leading up to Game 1 of the ALCS was whether Alex Rodriguez would be in the starting lineup against Doug Fister.
When the lineup was posted, it included Rodriguez’s name, this time as the team’s sixth-place hitter.
“This is a guy that we expect a lot from,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He had struggled in the first round, but this is a guy we know can do a lot of damage. I talk sometimes about going with my gut and evaluating what I see and different things you take into account when you make the lineup up. I think he’s raring to go and I think he’s ready to go.”
Including last year’s division series, Rodriguez is 1-for-9 against Doug Fister and after going 2-for-16 against the Orioles, Girardi is hopeful that putting him in a lower lineup spot can finally get him going in the postseason for the first time since 2009.
“This is a guy that we really need to get going,” Girardi said. “This is a guy that 2009, you think about what he did throughout the playoffs, I just believe in my heart that he’s ready to go. I believe he’s going to contribute and we’re going to put him back in there.
Rodriguez has batted sixth in his career on two previous occasions. He is 2-for-9 with a home run.
Kuroda starts Game 2
The belief held by many was that rookie David Phelps would make the start for Game 2 on Sunday.
Instead, it will be Hiroki Kuroda on three days rest. In the major leagues, Kuroda has only made a 1 1/3 inning relief appearance on three days rest but given the magnitude and the time of year, that hardly sounded like a concern.
“This is probably the shortest rest that I have ever had in my baseball career, but at this point of the season, we can’t really be talking anything but to win,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “So I’m just going to prepare myself to win the game, like I always have been throughout the season.”
Though there are some concerns about him being fatigued after throwing over 120 pitches Wednesday, those did not come into play when the decision was made before Game 5 on Friday.
“It is something we discussed,” Girardi said. “From what I understand, he has done it in Japan before and I know that’s a while ago; I understand that. But this time of year guys feel a little bit fresher. You get into this time of year, some life comes back into your body. The cooler weather helps and you just feel fresh. And he’s determined to go.”
Pitching Kuroda Sunday means that Phil Hughes will start Tuesday in Detroit. The Yankees considered having CC Sabathia return on short rest, but instead he will pitch Wednesday in Game 4.
Eppley in, Nunez out
The Yankees made one minor change to their roster before the ALCS. They added right-handed reliever Cody Eppley and dropped infielder Eduardo Nunez.
Eppley’s addition gives the Yankees 12 pitchers on the roster and the move likely was predicated on the scheduling of the series. If the series goes the distance, the Yankees will use someone else besides Kuroda on short rest and Eppley is among the insurance arms in the bullpen for a short start.
Eppley returns to the roster after a solid rookie season that saw him gradually earn the trust of Girardi. In 59 games, he pitched to a 3.33 ERA while pitching 46 innings and using his side-arm motion to get ground balls 60.3 percent of the time, which led all regular Yankee pitchers.
Nunez started at designated hitter in Game 2 in Baltimore against left-handed starter Wei-Yin Chen. The Tigers are starting four right-handers and have only two lefties on the roster in Phil Coke and Drew Smyly.
Going against Nunez’s favor besides his defensive struggles at shortstop are his splits against righties and lefties. He batted .360 against southpaws (18-for-50) and .205 (8-for-39) against right-handers.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.