NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher were benched by the Yankees for Game 3 of the AL championship series at Detroit on Tuesday night, the latest attempt by New York to reverse a deep hitting slump that threatens to knock New York out of the postseason.
"We talked about the dimensions here, and we talked about, fly-ball pitcher today, and we've had some guys struggling, so we decided to make some changes," manager Joe Girardi said.
It was the second time A-Rod has been benched this postseason. He's hitting .130 (3 for 23) with no RBIs in the playoffs, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handers. Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander, last year's AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, took the mound Tuesday against New York, trying to help the Tigers to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Rodriguez didn't talk to reporters as we he walked onto the field for pregame warmups. He was smiling, joking and laughing with teammates as he stretched.
Swisher has struggled about as much as Rodriguez, hitting .154 (4 for 26) this postseason. He is 1 for 34 with runners in scoring position in his postseason career.
Eric Chavez, 0 for 11 in the playoffs, started at third base in place of Rodriguez. Brett Gardner led off and played left field, his first start since April 17.
"We have a lot of guys in there working toward one common goal and that's to come back and beat the Tigers and get to the World Series," Gardner said. "We're all pulling for each other."
Gardner has been recovering from a right elbow injury that required surgery in July.
"Gardy, we believe, is one of the best leadoff guys in the game when he's healthy and has had a chance to play," general manager Brian Cashman said. "He's healthy now and he's going to get a chance to play. With all respect, he can't give us any less than we've gotten."
Rodriguez's benching came following a New York Post report, citing an unidentified witness, that said A-Rod flirted with two attractive female fans near the New York dugout after he was pulled late in Game 1 against Detroit. Girardi would not comment on that report and said the decision to bench A-Rod was strictly performance related.
"Part of it has been his struggles against right-handers in the playoffs," Girardi said.
Swisher was unable to catch Delmon Young's double in the 12th inning of Game 1, a 6-4 Detroit win, saying he lost the ball in the lights. Swisher, who is eligible for free agency, complained after Game 2 about hearing from angry home fans in the right-field corner.
"I wouldn't say desperate. We are down 2-0 but there was an extended period of time when opportunities were given and now we're going to give them to some other people who are legitimate major league guys who can contribute," Cashman said. "It's not like we're dropping off the face of the earth."