NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi put an end to days of speculation by finally deciding to drop Alex Rodriguez in the batting order for Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Thursday night.
Rodriguez dropped from third to fifth in the lineup after struggling to find his groove at the plate during the postseason. It's the lowest spot in the order Rodriguez has hit during a playoff game since batting eighth in Game 4 of the 2006 ALDS vs. the Tigers.
The move comes with Rodriguez hitting just 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts and one walk in the ALDS against the Orioles entering play on Thursday night. Girardi said the decision to move first baseman Mark Teixeira up the lineup while dropping Rodriguez also had to do with left-hander Joe Saunders being on the mound for Baltimore.
"Well, I liked both Tex's and Alex's bat against the lefties that we've had," Girardi said. "They've both been extremely productive for us in these situations. Tex had a big hit off of Saunders the other day, I guess it was probably a month ago, Alex had some RBIs. I liked them both, so I just decided to go that way."
Girardi's decision comes less than 24 hours after he opted to pinch hit for Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3. Raul Ibanez proceeded to tie the game with a solo homer before eventually clinching the victory with a walk-off homer in the 12th off Baltimore's Brian Matusz.
It was a gutsy call by Girardi that ultimately paid off, but one that also came with the possibility of a ripple effect throughout the organization. Rodriguez is still guaranteed $114 million over the next five seasons with an additional $30 million possible through a marketing agreement based on home run milestones.
In other words, Rodriguez isn't going anywhere anytime soon and Girardi potentially has to tread carefully when dealing with the struggling slugger. But for now, Girardi insists everything is fine and that Rodriguez was understanding of last night's decision.
"He wasn't angry, I don't think it will change our relationship," Girardi said. "I think we have a very open dialogue. We have a very honest relationship. I trust him.
"I saw Al's expression when Raul hit the home run, and you see the type of team player he is. I saw how I mean, Alex wants to win, bottom line, whatever it takes, and that's a great thing, to be able to manage a player like that."