First Pitch: Lineup shuffle?

October, 12, 2012

Alex Rodriguez said he "absolutely" expects to be in the lineup against righty Jason Hammel in Game 5. In his career, A-Rod is 8-for-24 (.333) with four homers against Hammel. But those numbers were from a different A-Rod.

Rodriguez is 2-for-16 in this series with nine strikeouts and has yet to get a hit off a righty. Joe Girardi very well could turn to Eric Chavez to play third and put A-Rod on the bench in this winner-take-all Game 5 at five. When asked to describe his health, A-Rod said he was "good enough."

"I'll make decisions (today)," Girardi said.

But A-Rod's role is not the only big decision Girardi must make. He has to figure out if Derek Jeter is healthy enough to play short and, with the season on the line, does he want to stick with Curtis Granderson. Granderson is 1-for-16 with nine strikeouts.

If you were to remove Granderson from the lineup, you could replace him with either Raul Ibanez or Brett Gardner. If you put Ibanez in left, you would move Ichiro to center and keep Nick Swisher in right. With this alignment, you would be sacrificing defense with Ibanez for Granderson, but your offense would be better. Granderson hasn't looked particularly good against righties or lefties.

Gardner has three major league at-bats since April, but you could argue desperate times call for desperate measures. Gardner is probably the best defender in the outfield, which may not be as important with CC Sabathia on the mound. I tend to doubt Girardi would turn to Gardner.

As for Jeter, of course, he says he can play short with a bruised bone in his left foot. If Jeter is forced to DH again, then Jayson Nix would start at short and Ibanez would be shut out of that spot and relegated to a pinch-hitter.

These are the decisions that Girardi must make with the season on the line.

UP NOW: Ian O'Connor's column on Buck Showalter. Wally Matthews on Game 5. My news story on Joba Chamberlain's latest freak injury. Ian Begley's five things you must know.

ON DECK: We will be all over everything you need to know for Game 5. Check us out here, on 98.7 FM and on ESPN TV. Sabathia vs. Hammel at 5 o'clock in the Bronx.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What would you do with the lineup?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »



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Masahiro Tanaka
13 2.77 141 136
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146