NEW YORK -- It is, as right-hander A.J. Burnett said, a different lineup when the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez's name in the cleanup spot.
But they could do worse than to have Robinson Cano -- whom Nick Swisher said "is on another planet" right now -- as a fill-in option.
Cano -- who entered Friday's game against the Astros as the Major League leader in hits (89) and batting average (.376) -- assumed the No. 4 spot in New York's lineup for the second time in his career on Friday, having also hit fourth against the Indians on May 28, when he collected four RBIs.
Three days later, Cano and Rodriguez hit back-to-back homers against Cleveland pitching, and Rodriguez was seen yukking it up in the dugout with Cano. Rodriguez later explained: "The other day, he hit fourth and wanted to push me out of the way. I was just telling him, 'It's not quite time for that yet.'"
Not that Cano hasn't stated his case well. In the 13 games since trying out A-Rod's cleanup spot, Cano has hit .491 (26-for-53) with five doubles, three homers and 16 RBIs.
"He's hit there once and had quite a day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He had fun with Alex on that day, and hopefully, he can rib Alex again tonight. He's been a real positive force in our lineup all year long, and he's swinging the bat great right now."