Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez confident he'll come back strong from strained left calf

Alex Rodriguez is confident he'll be completely ready to return from the disabled list next week.

Then again, he kidded, maybe his New York Yankees aren't in such a rush for his strained left calf to heal — the AL East leaders are 12-0 without the slugger in the lineup.

"I'm not concerned that I'm going to come back and come back strong," a smiling Rodriguez said before Monday night's game at Toronto. "My only concern the way things are going right now ... (general manager Brian Cashman) and Joe are going to bring me into the office and upgrade it to a 50-day DL."

The third baseman is eligible to return Sept. 5 and manager Joe Girardi said Rodriguez will go right back into his regular spot, batting fourth.

"He's the cleanup hitter and he's done a tremendous job," Girardi said. "You look at the production he's given us in that spot. Before he got hurt he was leading the majors in RBIs."

A-Rod has struggled much of the season, at least by his standards, hitting just .265 with 21 home runs, including the 600th homer of his career. But many of his hits have come with runners in scoring position or other clutch situations, and he leads the team with 97 RBIs in only 112 games.

"Hopefully when the dust settles in September and late October we can look back at this as a blessing in disguise because I know I'm going to come back strong," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said he'll do upper body work while he waits to test his injured calf again in "four or five days."

Rodriguez was placed on the 15-day DL Saturday, one day after aggravating his calf during his first at-bat of Friday night's home loss to Seattle. He also missed three games last week because of the injury.

Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena will split time at third for the Yankees, who won Saturday and Sunday without Rodriguez.

"They're going to kick me in the calf here pretty soon and take me out of my misery," Rodriguez said.

Girardi wasn't sure how the Yankees, who have the best record in the majors, have managed to go undefeated without Rodriguez.

"I hope we can ask the question again tomorrow," Girardi said. "When we're through this DL stint I would hope we can still ask the question."

Both Nunez and Pena were in the lineup Monday as Girardi gave shortstop Derek Jeter a night off.

"Seventeen days in a row he's played," Girardi said. "The man needs a day off. You hate to give him a day off but we can't have him physically break down."

Second baseman Robinson Cano, who's batting cleanup while A-Rod is out, will likely get a day off during the three games on Toronto's artificial turf, Girardi said.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte, out since July 19 with a strained left groin, is set to throw Friday in Chicago, Girardi said. Pettitte will start on flat ground and work up to a bullpen session.

"It's a situation where we need him to be right," Girardi said. "You can't really afford too many more setbacks."