|Joe Girardi has placed the perennial All-Star on the bench to start Game 5 against the Orioles (AP)|
NEW YORK -- He's not batting third. He's not batting fifth.
And Joe Girardi won't have to decide whether to have someone pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez in Game 5 of the American League Division Series.
In the game that decides whether the Yankees move on to the ALCS or head home after another first-round disaster, A-Rod is on the bench.
With right-hander Jason Hammel on the mound for the Orioles, and with A-Rod 0-for-12 with nine strikeouts against right-handers in this series, Girardi chose to play Eric Chavez at third base in place of his $29 million star.
"It's difficult," Girardi said. "He's meant a lot to the organization. [But] Chavez has been pretty good against right-handers all year."
Girardi also put Game 3 star Raul Ibanez in his Game 5 lineup, a move made much easier because Derek Jeter was deemed healthy enough to play shortstop. Ibanez will be the designated hitter, with struggling Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher remaining in the outfield.
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Ibanez made history with his two home runs Wednesday, but he did so at A-Rod's expense. It was in the ninth inning Wednesday night that Girardi made the bold decision to pinch-hit for A-Rod, who has 647 career home runs and has a guaranteed $114 million and five years remaining on his Yankee contract.
Girardi had Chavez pinch hit for A-Rod in Game 4. With Hammel pitching Friday, sitting A-Rod was an obvious but still incredibly difficult decision.
"I watched video today, looked at stuff," Girardi said. "I made the decision about 1 o'clock."
Girardi said he then phoned Rodriguez to tell him he wouldn't be starting.
"His message was, 'Let's win,' " Girardi said. "I believe he is ready to take an at-bat against a lefty, and help us win."
If the Yankees do win, they'll face the Tigers, who have no left-handed starters. In fact, all four Tiger starters in the ALCS figure to be hard-throwing right-handers, the exact type of pitcher Rodriguez has struggled the most against.
Girardi would not discuss whether A-Rod would start in the ALCS.
"I hope I really have to consider this tomorrow," he said. "I really do."
Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long expressed confidence that Rodriguez will rebound, if he gets the chance.
"We would like to see Alex get another shot at this thing," Long said. "It might be [Friday]. Ultimately, I'd like to see us get another series, so he can vindicate himself."
Long keeps track of "chases," or the number of times his hitters swing at pitches outside the strike zone. In the first four games of the Division Series, A-Rod has 15 chases, tied with Robinson Cano for the second-most on the team. Granderson, 1 for 16 with nine strikeouts, led the team with 16 chases.
The lineups for Game 5: