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Girardi keeps trust in struggling A-Rod, also says no CC on short rest in Game 4

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

NEW YORK -- For the record, in Game 3 of the 2006 Division Series against the Tigers, Joe Torre moved Alex Rodriguez higher in the batting order, not lower.

It wasn't until Game 4 that Torre dropped him to eighth.

We still don't know where A-Rod will bat in Thursday's Game 4. We do know that for Wednesday's Game 3, Yankees manager Joe Girardi stayed in character and resisted the outside pressure to move the once-again-struggling Rodriguez off the three spot.

"I trust our guys," Girardi explained. "I'm with them every day. It's important they trust me. We played basically playoff baseball the whole month of September with Alex hitting third. We won a lot of games."

That's more or less true.

Rodriguez batted third 17 times during the Yankees' September stretch (he hit cleanup in his other starts). The Yankees went 11-6 in those games.

A-Rod was in the third spot for each of his final 11 regular-season starts. He had just one extra-base hit (a double) and one RBI in those games, but the Yankees went 7-4 to wrap up the American League East title.

Rodriguez went 1-for-9 in the first two games against the Orioles, with the one hit a single. He was hitless in four at-bats with runners on base, with three strikeouts.

This isn't the first time that Girardi has resisted strong outside pressure to change his lineup. For the first two months last season, he was asked regularly about taking Derek Jeter out of the leadoff spot. He never did, and Jeter rebounded strongly.

The outside pressure now, including a New York Post back page Wednesday that urged Girardi to bat A-Rod sixth, is based in large part on a belief that Robinson Cano is the Yankees' best hitter (true), and that thus Cano should bat third (not as necessarily true).

Girardi said Wednesday that if he did move Cano up to the third spot, he would feel it necessary to flip-flop Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki in the top two spots, to avoid back-to-back left-handed hitters.

Often this season, Girardi has explained other lineup moves by saying he didn't want to stack his lefties, which makes it easier for the opposing manager to use a lefty specialist.

For all the talk about the lineup, Girardi's other decision Wednesday could have just as big an impact on this series -- and also possibly on what happens the rest of the month, should the Yankees advance.

Phil Hughes will start Game 4, Girardi said, regardless of whether the Yankees are facing elimination or not. The other option would be to start CC Sabathia on short rest, but that would also require the Yankees to commit to either starting 40-year-old Andy Pettitte on short rest in Game 5, or to start Hughes.

"I have my concerns [about Pettitte on short rest]," Girardi said.

 
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