DETROIT — Alex Rodriguez hit third for the Yankees in the first three games of the postseason. A week later, New York has no use for the highest-paid player in baseball.
Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Tigers was rained out at Comerica Park Wednesday night. The game will be made up Thursday afternoon, weather permitting, with the Tigers leading the series, three games to none. A fifth game, if needed, will be in Detroit Friday.
Before the game was called, the status of Rodriguez, benched again, was a topic of conversation. For the Yankees, there is rarely any escaping that.
Rodriguez is 3 for 23 in the postseason with no extra-base hits or runs batted in. He has been out of the lineup three times since the playoffs started and pinch hit for three times.
Rodriguez has been particularly helpless against righthanded pitching, going hitless in 18 at-bats and striking out 12 times. With Max Scherzer pitching for Detroit in Game 4, Eric Chavez was picked to start at third base. Raul Ibanez was the designated hitter.
Going back to 2010, Rodriguez is hitting .164 in the postseason with six RBIs over 20 games.
“We will go forward. Alex will go forward,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. “You’re going to have some good times and you’re going to have some tough times. But when you’re going through the tough times, it doesn’t have to be the end-all and be-all.
“Opportunities will exist to continue to get back off that mat and get back in the ring and battle. And Alex is going to wait for that opportunity. Right now it looks like, in theory, we’ll do that against lefthanded pitching.”
Rodriguez said he “loved the Yankees” and respected the decision of manager Joe Girardi. But he was clearly miffed by the benching.
“I’ve played this game for a long time,” he said, “and bottom line is, anytime I’m in any lineup, I think that lineup is better. It has a better chance to win.”
Cashman said a report by commentator Keith Olbermann that the Yankees had discussed trading Rodriguez to the Miami Marlins was “100 percent false.”
The 37-year-old Rodriguez has five years and $114 million remaining on his contract. Trading him likely would require the Yankees to pick up a large percentage of his remaining salary.
Because Rodriguez is from Miami and still lives there, the Marlins would make sense as a possible destination.
Cashman also said the benching was entirely a baseball decision and not punishment for any off-field transgressions. The New York Post reported that Rodriguez flirted with an Australian bikini model sitting behind the dugout after he was taken out of Game 1 of the ALCS, sending her a baseball with his telephone number on it.
Rodriguez said the allegation was “laughable.”
Girardi was left fielding questions about whether Rodriguez was still a viable player.
“No, no, I don’t think he is a shot player,” he said. “I think he’s a guy that’s going through some struggles.”
Girardi and Cashman seemed to have no trouble putting Rodriguez on the bench.
“It’s not that I want to sit Alex Rodriguez,” Girardi said. “It’s not that I have sat him against every righthander, I haven’t. He played against a lot of them. But the struggles have continued, like for some other players as well. And I’ve sat some other players just as well.
“So, I mean, this is not something that is easy to do. I think as a manager and as a team at this time you have got to think about today, and you think about today only.”
Unless the Yankees can trade Rodriguez, this is their new reality.
“This doesn’t mean that he’s done; that he’s finished; that he is not capable. He is still a big threat,” Cashman said. “But for whatever reason right now we are adjusting to what we are seeing. And in the short term it doesn’t mean that that will necessarily take place in the long term.
“That’s all for another day. All we are concentrating on is the here and now and what is best for us today.”