Who’s on 1st? Ref, not A-Rod, while Tex is hurt
Any plans Alex Rodriguez may have had taking grounders at first base before Monday night’s scheduled game at Yankee Stadium were washed away as batting practice had to be canceled due to severe thunderstorm activity.
Then again, it might have been just a waste of time for A-Rod, who has stated a desire to play the position if it will get him into the lineup more often. Another injury to Mark Teixeira has opened up first base again, but manager Joe Girardi clearly prefers to use rookie Rob Refsnyder there if Tex is not available.
Teixeira, who has missed time this season because of right knee and neck issues, was out of the starting lineup Monday night for the second straight game. He fouled a ball off the area above his left ankle Saturday. A CT scan after the game was negative, but the area is very swollen. Girardi said he did not anticipate being able to use Teixeira Monday or Tuesday nights.
Rodriguez was in the lineup as the designated hitter against the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman and did what will keep him in the lineup, which was to hit a home run. His blow into the left field bleachers off a 2-0 meatball from Gausman in the second inning was A-Rod’s ninth home run of the season and career No. 696.
Before the thunderstorms hit, Rodriguez was able to hit into a BP session and banged several balls into the seats, so he was able to take that into the game.
A-Rod lost playing time at DH against right-handed pitching when Girardi used Carlos Beltran while he was recovering from a hamstring strain. Beltran was back in right field Monday night.
The Orioles tied the score in the third on a solo homer by Jonathan Schoop off Ivan Nova. Beltran helped build the run in the bottom of that inning that turned out to be the decider for the Yanks. Beltran went against the shift with a single to left field that pushed Brett Gardner to third base from where he scored on a fly ball by Brian McCann.
Nova got the Yankees to the seventh inning when Girardi began the merry-go-round of Dellin Betances in the seventh, Andrew Miller in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth for three more scoreless innings that ran the bullpen’s current shutout string to 22. Chapman had the Yankee Stadium crowd of 31,102 buzzing while pitching to J.J. Hardy when one pitch zoomed in at 105 miles per hour, the fastest pitch thrown ib the major leagues this season.
Rodriguez did not take well to playing first base last year when the Yankees asked him to work out at the position early in the season. He played poorly there and seemed content to be a permanent DH rather than have to wear a glove again, which he did with distinction as a Gold Glove winner at shortstop and third base.
But that was two hip surgeries ago for Rodriguez, who will turn 41 later this month. His .216 batting average is 79 points below his career mark. He is 2-for-13 (.154) on the homestand.
Refsnyder, who was an outfielder in college and an infielder in the minor leagues, has done a decent job at first base and has given the Yankees consistent if unspectacular offense. He is batting .269 with eight doubles and 10 RBI in 93 at-bats.
“He has just had the one day of work, so I’m not ready to commit to that yet,” Girardi said. “Right now I’m going with Ref there. Alex is DHing tonight so I’m going with Ref there. It’s something that we’ll continue to talk about but we’ll stick for Ref for now.”
The Yankees need to win games and not be giving auditions for an important position at this stage of the season. A-Rod had his chance to be a factor at first base and did not work hard enough when the Yankees needed him. Now that playing time as the DH is threatened, he picks up a first base glove. Girardi is making the right call here.