|A-Rod has just seven homers after 49 games. Entering Wednesday, 60 players have more. (US Presswire)|
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Has it really come to this: Alex Rodriguez, $275 million singles hitter?
Joe Girardi isn't ready to go there yet. But watching A-Rod meekly make his way through the first 49 games of the season, the Yankees manager doesn't exactly appear to be setting the bar as high as it once was.
"I wouldn't call him just a singles hitter," Girardi said when the idea was presented to him before the Yankees' series finale here Wednesday. "He's got, what, seven home runs? That equates to about 20 over the season."
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Girardi quickly made it clear that he's not boxing A-Rod in for only 20 homers, emphasized that it's still too early in the season to draw final conclusions and predicted that "the barrage is coming. We just don't know exactly when."
Soon would be a good time, as Yankees fans become more and more restless. While the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters have not exactly ventured anywhere near torrid yet, certainly more has been expected from A-Rod (.287, 7 homers, 19 RBI), Robinson Cano (.287, 7 homers, 20 RBIs) and Mark Teixeira (.263, nine homers, 30 RBIs).
"It's one of those years," Girardi said, speaking to Cano's tepid start in a statement that could cover all three. "There's a human being inside of that body that walks up there every day. Sometimes, you're a tick off.
"A tick off in this game is huge."
Where Rodriguez is concerned, it's hard to tell if he's got ticks or, at 36, erosion is setting in. Of his 52 hits this season, 40 are singles. Thus, Wednesday's singles-hitter discussion.
When he clubbed two homers against the Royals in the final game of New York's most recent homestand, many folks expected him to set sail from there.
Instead, while he was hitting .333 (7 for 21) over the first five games of this trip to Oakland and Anaheim, he's not driving the ball. All seven hits are singles.
Girardi mentioned that both ballparks are big, which is true. But, again, is that the point the Yankees are at with A-Rod? Has he really reached the point where big ballparks swallow him up?
Or does he have enough left to flex sometime during the final two-thirds of the season?
"You get caught up in that. I don't," Girardi said. "I can't tell you. I wish I could tell you the exact date. No one left me a crystal ball saying when. No one left me a crystal ball saying he'll hit 30 home runs."
The skipper noted that, in 2009, A-Rod missed the first month-and-a-half with a hip injury and still put up 30 homers and 100 RBIs in 124 games.
"The big thing to me is production," Girardi said. "Scoring runs and driving in runs."
A total of 60 big leaguers had more home runs than Rodriguez entering Wednesday's play.
"Everyone gets caught up in home runs," Girardi continued. "I get caught up in runs and RBIs. That's what I'm caught up in. Some guys swing for the fences and hit .200. That's not what we want. I don't care if it's bloop singles every time. I don't care."
A total of 123 major leaguers had more RBIs than Rodriguez into Wednesday.
And 67 had scored more runs than A-Rod's 25.
While brushing off the current and projected homer totals, Girardi said the Yankees do expect Rodriguez to be around 100 RBIs when the season ends.
Truth be told, they expect more out of all of their middle-order hitters. Girardi allowed that it is "somewhat surprising" that Teixeira, Cano and A-Rod all three have struggled to the degree they have so far.
"Tex has started to heat up, Robbie has been hot and cold and Alex has been somewhat hot and cold. Consistency is an important thing."
He added: "A lot of guys are struggling with runners in scoring position," the manager said. "We need to turn that around."
They can start by not taking their Bronx Bombers moniker quite so literally: When the Yankees do not homer this season, they're 0-11. When they do, they're 26-12.
Too much running in place, and not enough moving the runners along.
Your move, Mr. Rodriguez.