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Bloom: DH dilemma present for Yanks

DH dilemma present for Yanks

NEW YORK -- The Yankees hit the road this week for six games in the National League West, sans the designated hitter and with two key veterans playing through the lingering effects of injuries. That may keep third baseman Alex Rodriguez and catcher Jorge Posada from starting every game against the D-backs and Dodgers.

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It's an interesting dilemma for manager Joe Girardi, who must balance the health of his players with the goal of winning as many games as possible.

"We'll go day by day just to see how each one of them goes," Girardi said on Sunday before the Yanks vanquished the Mets, 4-0, at Yankee Stadium in a game delayed for 22 minutes by rain. "That's the only thing we can do. We want to play them as much as we possibly can. But you have to go day by day and that's the situation we're in now."

A-Rod was the DH on Saturday when Posada caught. On Sunday, A-Rod played third base for the second time in the five games since his return from a sore right hip flexor. Posada, who had a broken bone in his right foot, was the DH. With Interleague rules the way they are, when games are played in NL cities, the Yankees won't have that option.

For good or bad, the pitcher has to hit, and so if A-Rod or Posada can't play the field, one or both of them may have to sit. That means seeing a lot of Francisco Cervelli, Kevin Russo and/or Ramiro Pena.

"Ideally we'd like to DH or rest A-Rod once a week, anyway," Girardi said. "I don't think we're necessarily going to get away from that. But I do think we're going to get to the point soon where we won't have to worry about his hip flexor."

Posada returned on June 2 after missing the last two weeks of May, and Girardi has started him behind the plate just three times in 16 games. After a two-hit day on Sunday, for the month he's hitting .230 (12-for-52) with three homers and 10 RBIs, including grand slams in back-to-back wins over the Astros on June 12-13.

Girardi hypothesized that with an off-day on Thursday between the pair of three-game sets, Posada could catch two games in each series. That was also one of the reasons the soon to be 39-year-old Posada was the DH on Sunday.

"That's very possible, so it's something we will take a look at," Girardi said.

But starting on Monday night at Chase Field in Phoenix, it's certainly clear that the rules could take as many as three big bats out of the Yankee lineup in any of the six games.

American League managers don't like losing the DH in Interleague road games and Girardi is no exception, he said earlier in this just concluded nine-game homestand, citing an injury to a pitcher while hitting or running the bases.

The Yankees lost pitcher Chien-Ming Wang pretty much for good to a right foot injury he suffered while running the bases during an Interleague road game two years ago in Houston. Wang tore a tendon and sprained his right foot. A 54-game winner before the injury, he won one after.

But those are the vagaries of the Interleague rules that Girardi and other AL managers have to deal with. Baseball officials have determined that every All-Star Game moving forward will utilize the DH, beginning with this year's tilt in Anaheim. But Commissioner Bud Selig said recently that he has no intention of changing the DH rules for either Interleague Play or the World Series.

DH or not, Girardi is certainly concerned about getting A-Rod going. In the five games he's been back after missing the same number with the injury, he's 2-for-18 with a double and RBI. The injury has affected A-Rod's swing, Girardi acknowledged, and the power numbers don't lie. He's had a homer and three RBIs during the month of June.

"I just think it's one of those years," Girardi said. "You might look at it now and say that the hip is prohibiting him. But before the Toronto series [June 4-6], he didn't have a hip problem."

Girardi is, in fact, correct. A-Rod has hit only two homers since May 19 and has been stuck on career homer 591 since June 3. The right-handed slugger hasn't had fewer than 30 homers or 100 RBIs in a single season since 1997 for the Mariners. But right now, he has eight homers and 44 RBIs with the season only 11 games shy of the halfway mark.

Girardi called A-Rod's recent struggles at the plate a matter of "timing." But he also liked what he saw in the field on Sunday as A-Rod made a diving play on Jose Reyes' hard-hit, sixth-inning grounder. An inning later, he easily started an around-the-horn double play.

After Rodriguez grounded out when the game resumed in the bottom of the eighth, Girardi lifted him defensively for Pena in the top of the ninth. It was a precautionary measure, the manager said.

"No, no, he didn't complain that he was hurting," Girardi said after the game. "I was going to pinch-run for him anyway."

These are the type of juggling decisions that await Girardi on this trip to the West Coast.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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