MINNEAPOLIS – Alex Rodriguez finally returned to the New York Yankees lineup on Sunday, more than a month and a half after he hit the disabled list with a knee injury that sapped the power from his swing.
Rodriguez was put in the cleanup spot for the series finale against the Minnesota Twins, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi put him back at third base rather than ease him in at designated hitter because the team has an off day on Monday.
"He feels good," Girardi said. "And with the day off tomorrow we thought it made sense to play him at third base today and see how he does in the nine innings. He should be fresh."
It was Rodriguez's first major league game since July 7. He had surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee, an injury that limited him to 13 homers in his first 80 games this season. He has not hit a home run since June 11.
The Yankees went 25-13 without Rodriguez, surging back to the top of the AL East. But getting a healthy, and rested, A-Rod back in the lineup makes the Yankees even more formidable as they battle with the Boston Red Sox for the division title and pursue a 28th World Series championship.
"This is the middle-of-the-order hitter," Girardi said. "This guy's been a run-producer for years and years and years. Before he hurt his knee, his home runs were good and his RBIs were good. Once he hurt his knee, his power kind of went away a little bit, but he has been productive."
Rodriguez was not available for comment before the game. He rejoined the team on Thursday after a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and said the only thing holding him back was getting his conditioning up to speed. He spent three days going through extensive workouts to try to get himself back into game shape.
He focused on baserunning, particularly going first to third, and deemed himself ready to play after the final workout on Saturday.
Girardi is expected to shuffle Rodriguez between third base and DH as he works his way back into the everyday grind, but the manager said Sunday it was too early to tell how that will play out over the next week or two.
"I think you just kind of have to watch how long the games are, how he's moving and how he's recovering day-to-day," Girardi said. "I'm curious (about) tomorrow. I'll talk to him tomorrow to see how he feels. So you get kind of a temperature of how he's recovering."
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