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Sunday, April 17, 2011
Ailing Alex Rodriguez out of lineup

By Ian Begley
Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Third baseman Alex Rodriguez was out of the lineup on Sunday night in the rubber game of the New York Yankees-Texas Rangers three-game series due to lower back and oblique stiffness on his left side.

Rodriguez left Saturday's game after the sixth inning with lower back and oblique stiffness. He was replaced by backup infielder Eric Chavez, who hit sixth in the lineup.

"He's just sore," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi before the game. "We'll take it day by day and shoot for Tuesday. If he can't go Tuesday, we'll shoot for Wednesday. I just didn't think it made any sense to push it. I called him today, he said he was sore, and I said we're going to give you the day off."

Rodriguez said he was "a little sore" in his lower back and rib cage/oblique area on Sunday but he would not rule out the possibility of a return to the lineup on Tuesday, when the Yankees travel to Toronto for a two-game series. He hopes to avoid a trip to the disabled list.

"I hope not ... I like to think that I pulled myself out, hopefully with the perfect timing," he said. "I felt that if I went out and took a violent swing perhaps I could have put myself at risk for a couple of weeks."

Rodriguez underwent an MRI on Sunday that came back "clean" according to Girardi.

"It's a precautionary one," Girardi said. "So we'll see how he is on Tuesday."

The Rangers didn't plan to take Chavez lightly.

"Eric Chavez is no slouch," Rangers manager Ron Washington said before the game. "It might not be the Eric Chavez that people remember from his first five or six years of baseball, but he can still hurt you. They do miss Alex in there, but Eric can hurt you also."

Washington's comments proved prophetic as Chavez drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning of the Yankees' 6-5 win over the Rangers.

"When I made the decision to come here, I knew what it was going to be. Obviously, Alex is going to play a ton of games and when I get in there I've just got to be ready to play," said Chavez, in his initial season with the Yankees after spending his first 13 in Oakland. "I'm going to keep the same approach the whole year."

Robinson Cano was moved up to Rodriguez's cleanup spot in the lineup and homered in the second inning.

The Yankees, obviously, hope they don't lose Rodriguez for an extended period of time. He has been one of the team's most productive players on offense, hitting .385 with four homers, nine RBIs and a .500 on-base percentage.

Rodriguez said he first felt pain in his back and oblique prior to Saturday's game. It intensified throughout the day, in part due to the cold, windy and rainy conditions at Yankee Stadium. Rodriguez said he felt the pain increase after he swung on Saturday. He also felt pain after making a diving stop to his left on an Elvis Andrus groundball in the third inning.

"I know I felt it most after the dive," Rodriguez said. He added: "The minute I felt that I had a real chance to hurt myself and risk any significant time I told Girardi I should go take care of this."

Rodriguez finished 0-for-2 with a walk, grounding out meekly to shortstop in his final at-bat.

The 35-year-old sat out the Yankees' 4-0 loss to Boston on April 10 with flu-like symptoms.

Team trainers are treating the injury with heat, ice and ultrasound treatment.

Girardi indicated that he will be cautious with Rodriguez. The Yankees have an off day Thursday before heading to Baltimore for a weekend set.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett, ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews and The Associated Press contributed to this report.