Banged-up Damon gets rest in finale

Banged-up Damon gets rest in finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- The cumulative effects of an errant pitch, a crash into the Metrodome wall and an unforgiving expanse of turf conspired to keep Johnny Damon out of Thursday's starting lineup in the Yankees' third and final game against the Twins.

Damon, who was hit in the right calf by a Jeremy Accardo pitch in Monday's 7-6 loss against the Blue Jays, hit hard against the Metrodome wall while chasing Joe Mauer's double on Wednesday evening. Deviating from his usual strategy of subbing out Nick Swisher during the late innings of close games, Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Damon with Melky Cabrera in the ninth inning on Wednesday.

His reasoning then was that although Damon was ailing, he would be ready in time for Thursday's series finale against the Twins. But roughly 12 hours later, Girardi had changed his plan.

"It's a quick turnaround," Girardi said, referencing the difficulty of playing on artificial surfaces. "We've talked about Johnny on the turf before. He's a little banged up. He got hit in the calf, he banged his knee yesterday. I just thought that today would be a good day for him."

It helps, of course, that Girardi now has little fear starting both Brett Gardner and Cabrera in the outfield, despite the presence of a left-handed starter. Gardner has been just as effective as Cabrera of late, batting .417 over his past three games and citing a newfound aggressive approach at the plate.

"It took me a little while, but I learned that I can't keep falling behind every at-bat," Gardner said. "I just have to be aggressive, and when I get my pitch, don't miss it."

Facing Twins southpaw Francisco Liriano in the finale, Girardi also opted to start Alex Rodriguez as his designated hitter on Thursday, not feeling obligated to keep left-handed hitter Hideki Matsui in that spot.

With the All-Star break looming after a weekend series in Anaheim, Rodriguez will not take any additional time off from his defensive duties until the second half of the season -- which comes as something of a surprise. Despite their original plan to the contrary, the Yankees have given A-Rod just one game off over a three-week span.

They expect to follow a similar plan after the All-Star Game, resting Rodriguez roughly once every couple of weeks and sprinkling DH days in between.

"I think we'll be fine there," Girardi said.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.