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In sitting A-Rod, Girardi focused on 'today'

10/12/2012 6:06 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Alex Rodriguez warms up before Friday's Game 5 against the Orioles.(AP)

After going 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts and being pinch-hit for in the late innings of consecutive games, Alex Rodriguez was out of the Yankees lineup for Friday’s Game 5.

Normally, that stat line would seem to lend itself to easy rationale for removing the offender from that day’s nine -- but this is the Yankees, and that player is one of the most prolific hitters in baseball history.

Replacing A-Rod with Eric Chavez, who himself has yet to record a hit in this ALDS, was definitely a difficult decision, but one that manager Joe Girardi felt he had to make to give the Yankees the best chance to win and move on to the ALCS.

“(Alex) has meant a lot to the organization, the game of baseball over the years, and he has been a very productive hitter,” Girardi said in his pre-game press conference. But he struggled against right‑handers in the series, and Chavy has been good against right‑handers all year long.  I made a decision to start Chavy today.”

Girardi said he made the decision about four hours before game time, and notified Rodriguez via either phone or text, as A-Rod was not yet at the ballpark -- but it was a decision A-Rod understood and handled in stride.

“He wasn't here yet.  I got ahold of him and let him know what I was going to do,” Girardi said. “His message to me was, ‘Let's win, and I'm ready to help whenever you need me.’ And I believe that.  So I believe he is ready to take an at‑bat against a lefty and help us win.”

A win, of course, would allow the Yankees to advance to the ALCS, which begins on Saturday. And even though Girardi continually repeats that he only worries about “today,” he knows that removing Rodriguez from his lineup is something he may have never thought he would do -- but that’s a phenomenon that’s not exactly new to him.

“There is probably a lot of things I wouldn't envision this year with all of things that we went through as a club,” he said. “And one thing that these guys have always been able to do is bounce back.  Whether it's been through injuries or some other things, they have been able to bounce back.  And that's what I look forward to watching today.”

And whether the next baseball ‘tomorrow’ comes Saturday or in 2013 for the Yankees, Girardi isn’t worried about how the events of this week might affect the team chemistry, or his relationship with his struggling star, going forward.

“The one thing that this club has always given me the ability to do is make my lineup. … You know, if there are concerns about relationships, you have offseasons, you have springs, you have seasons to go through things,” the skipper said. “The best relationships, the strongest relationships are always relationships that go through some struggles.  Relationships just aren't perfect. So I mean, if things have to be, you know, built back up, we can do that.  I have had to do that before, so I don't worry about that.  I have got to worry about today, and we, as an organization, and as a group in that room, have to worry about today.” 

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