Following a miserable start to the season, the Yankees have started to turn things around these last few weeks. They've gone 12-5 in their last 17 games to climb out of the cellar and into third place in the AL East. They are still one game under .500 at 21-22 though.
New York's recent hot streak coincidences with Alex Rodriguez being placed on the disabled list with a hamstring injury. He hurt himself running out a ground ball three weeks ago. Here's the play, which looks innocent enough:
A-Rod was eligible to be activated off the DL last Thursday, and the Yankees indicated the plan was to activate him as soon as possible. Then, when Thursday came around, they decided to give him a few more days. The hope was to get him back Saturday. That didn't happen. So they said they'll wait until after Monday's off-day.
Now, after indicating Rodriguez would come off the DL for Tuesday's series opener against the Blue Jays, the Yankees instead announced Tuesday morning that A-Rod will join their Double-A affiliate to begin a minor league rehab assignment. His return has been delayed again.
Dan Martin of the New York Post has some details on the decision to send A-Rod out on a rehab assignment rather than activate him off the DL:
GM Brian Cashman said the Yankees had a conference call on Monday, and manager Joe Girardi, hitting coach Alan Cockrell and bench coach Rob Thomson decided against sending Rodriguez straight to The Bronx because he hasn't faced live pitching in three weeks.
When asked if the rehab assignment would be one game, Cashman responded: "Not necessarily."
Martin adds Girardi reached out to Rodriguez, who agreed a few minor league rehab games would be beneficial. A-Rod has been running the bases and taking batting practice, but it has been nearly three full weeks since he last faced live pitching, so surely his timing is off. A few minor league at-bats can help him get back on track.
So far this season A-Rod is hitting .194/.275/.444 (94 ERA+) with five home runs in 20 games, which obviously is not very good, especially for a DH. To be fair, Rodriguez was starting to heat up right before the injury. He went 7 for 19 (.368) with three doubles and three home runs in the six games immediately prior to being placed on the DL.
The Yankees don't seem too eager to rush Rodriguez back from his injury and it's easy to understand why. Not only have they been winning without him, but his replacements have been great. Carlos Beltran has slid into the DH role full-time, where he's hit .346/.357/.808 with five homers. Aaron Hicks has taken over as the regular right fielder and hit .286/.317/.446 with A-Rod out. Hicks in right and Beltran at DH has also greatly improved the team defense.
Are the Yankees better off without A-Rod? Only if he doesn't hit. If Rodriguez comes back and puts up a 94 OPS+ the rest of the season, the team would definitely be better off without him. But, if he comes back and hits like he did a year ago (129 OPS+), the Yankees will live with Beltran's defense in right field to get A-Rod in the lineup everyday.
For now the Yankees are in no rush to bring A-Rod back because Beltran and Hicks have adapted to their new roles so well. It also helps that the team is winning. A few minor league rehab games aren't a bad thing at all. Rodriguez can use that time to get locked in so he can come back ready to help the team right away rather than spend some time getting his timing back.