Joe Girardi has told the media that Alex Rodriguez will no longer be used as the team's primary backup at third base. Instead, Stephen Drew was taking grounders at the hot corner before Tuesday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Girardi said that Drew would likely be used at the position when Chase Headley needs a day off.
The main motivation behind the switch seems to be that Girardi thinks he can keep Rodriguez healthier by not having him play in the field except in case of absolute emergency. There's no question that Rodriguez has lost a step or four in the field after multiple hip surgeries, but being able to use him at third was a valuable option for getting Carlos Beltran's lackluster defense out of the outfield for a game here and there. This does open the door for Jose Pirela to get more reps at second base while Drew slides over to third, but Pirela should probably be getting way more playing time there as it is while Drew continues to scuffle offensively.
Rodriguez has been nursing a sore hamstring over the last few games, including grabbing the muscle after he took second base on defensive indifference on Monday night. The good news is that no one seems overly concerned that it will turn into much of anything, but it probably factored into the decision to bring Rodriguez's third base days to a virtual end. Although they haven't explored the option of using Rodriguez at first base since his adventure there in his first start, it seems as though that would be off the table as well.
The team clearly thinks they can spare him the unnecessary bumps and bruises that come with playing the field in order to keep his bat in the lineup. He's hitting well enough to this point that it's difficult to blame them for taking whatever measures are necessary to keep Rodriguez healthy. It has been more or less two years since he was able to play a full year, and the Yankees are hoping that this will be the year that their season extends into at least October once more. Having Rodriguez healthy and in the lineup gives them the best chance to get there.
It is interesting that the team is trying to have Drew learn yet another new position. The natural shortstop already had to learn second base to fit into the Yankees' plans, and now he'll need to learn third base too. Clearly they think he is athletic enough to handle the added workload, and it's reasonable to believe that he won't be needed for third base too often if Headley remains healthy. Headley has started all but four games at the hot corner to this point in the season.
Do you think the team is making the right decision by putting an end to Rodriguez's days in the field? Do you think Drew will be able to learn to play an adequate third base sort of on the fly?