A-Rod rejoins lineup, belts clutch home run

A-Rod rejoins lineup, belts clutch home run

A-Rod rejoins lineup, belts clutch home run
TORONTO -- One day after an encouraging batting-practice session, Alex Rodriguez was back in the Yankees' lineup Saturday, as expected. But he wasn't in his expected spot in the batting order.

Manager Joe Girardi batted him fifth against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Rodriguez responded with a single and a three-run homer in a 7-6 comeback victory.

"I'm just glad to be back in there," said Rodriguez, who hit behind Robinson Cano. "One step at a time. [I'm] kind of working it back, I guess slowly. But wherever the manager puts me, that's always fine."

Rodriguez, who last batted fifth on Sept. 6, 2006, has been out of the cleanup spot only one other time this season -- on Sept. 3, when he hit third -- and is nursing a sprained left thumb as he finds himself playing for the first time in eight days. The Yankees' third baseman was expected back Friday, but since he wasn't going to play in both of the first two games of this series, Girardi opted to wait another day and see how he gets through batting practice.

Then, with a new grip that has him separating his hands about a half-inch on the barrel to keep his top hand from banging the injured thumb, A-Rod went through seven rounds of BP and felt good on Friday.

"It seemed to help him yesterday when he went through BP, so it's a good idea," Girardi said. "It seems to work."

Girardi immediately put Rodriguez back in the fourth spot when he returned from knee surgery in late August, but this time decided to drop him. Girardi said the decision had more to do with Rodriguez's absence than Cano's production.

"Really, he hasn't played much in the last two months," Girardi said, "so I figured we'll just keep Robbie there for right now, and if Alex gets going, we can adjust our lineup as we see needed."

Rodriguez, who suffered the thumb injury in his first game back off the disabled list, has played in just 10 games since the All-Star break, batting .194 with two homers. It's not necessarily timing he's worried about; but having considerable power despite an ailing thumb and a new grip that's supposed to diminish just that.

"I think both are important, but just to have the authority to get through the zone the way I'm used to is the most important thing," said Rodriguez, batting .284 with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 90 games entering Saturday. "I think timing takes a little adjustment, but not as bad as the other thing."