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Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Alex Rodriguez (knee) scratched

By Wallace Matthews
ESPNNewYork.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez was scratched from the New York Yankees lineup less than an hour before the beginning of their regular-season finale against the Tampa Bay Rays Wednesday night because of what the club described as a "sore right knee.''

The Yankees lost 8-7 in the 12th inning.

It is the same knee Rodriguez underwent arthroscopic surgery on to repair a torn meniscus in July, an injury that caused him to miss 38 games.

"We just felt it was smarter to stay off the turf for one night," Rodriguez said. "The turf is always an issue when you play multiple days back to back, so it would be nice to get off it for a day. We decided it was wiser to get ready for Friday. Nothing I'm worried about."

Rodriguez had been slotted to bat fifth for only the second time this season in what could be the Yankees' postseason lineup against left-handed starters.

"Al's knee was just a little achy so we decided not to play him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I don't really have a concern about him. The turf can do that to you sometimes. He'll be ready to go Friday. No doubt whatsoever."

With lefty David Price starting for Tampa Bay, Girardi moved red-hot Robinson Cano into the cleanup spot normally occupied by Rodriguez and moved Mark Teixeira back up to third, after a one-night stint as the No. 5 hitter on Tuesday.

"Tex has been very, very good against left-handers so we moved him up against the lefties and kept Alex behind Robbie," Girardi said.

Said general manager Brian Cashman: "It's an indication of where Robbie's at right now,and where Alex and Tex are currently at. Bottom line is you want to give your best hitters the most at-bats and put them in the position to do the most damage. So like anything else, you earn your way up the lineup, you earn your way back down the lineup.''

Entering the game, Cano led the team in batting (.304), trailing Curtis Granderson in RBIs by one with 118, and had 28 home runs. In the third inning of Tuesday night's must-win game for Tampa Bay, Rays manager Joe Maddon chose to intentionally walk Cano with two out and the bases empty in the third inning to pitch to Rodriguez. He, too, walked but Teixeira flied out to end the inning.

Before the game, Rodriguez told ESPNNewYork.com it was his understanding that a lineup with Cano batting fourth and himself batting fifth was likely to continue through the playoffs whenever a left-hander was starting.

One of the Yankees' potential playoff opponents, the Texas Rangers, boasts two left-handers in their starting rotation, C.J. Wilson and Derek Holland. The Rangers won Wednesday night however, meaning the Yankees will play the Tigers.

"It's all about protecting Robbie,'' A-Rod said. "It's fine with me. We're a team and whatever it takes to win, I'll do.''

Rodriguez gave no indication that his knee was troubling him; in fact, he said the various injuries -- he has also had a strained right shoulder and a sprained left thumb -- that cut his season to just 99 games were essentially healed and he just needed to get his timing back.

This season, A-Rod has hit .276 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs, statistically the worst of his career since 1997, when he was a 21-year-old member of the Seattle Mariners.

Asked before the game, and before Rodriguez's injury was announced, what the Yankees could realistically expect from A-Rod in the postseason, Cashman said, "I really don't know. Obviously, he's going to benefit from getting as many reps as he can get before Friday, because of all the time he missed. And I don't think he's quite there yet.''

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.