Alex Rodriguez will return to spring training for the first full squad workout on Feb. 26, and he is a compelling storyline since the Yankees have no idea what they will get production wise from him. The 39-year-old did not play a single game in the 2014 season because of his 162-game suspension for violating the league’s Performance Enhancing Drugs policy, and in 2013, as a result of hip surgery, he only played in 44 games.
In those 44 games during the 2014 season, he hit only .244 with seven homers and 19 RBIs. His first homer came off of Justin Verlander on August 11, and with that home run he passed Stan Musial for fifth in career RBIs. Even though he is not nearly what he used to be, A-Rod will likely be on the roster for the next three seasons because he still has three years and $63 million left on his contract.
As of right now, Garrett Jones and Rodriguez are slated to compete for at-bats as the DH. However, since the Yankees signed Chase Headley to play third, Rodriguez will primarily be the DH and Jones will be the back-up in right field and first base. The Yankees need to figure out how to get something out of A-Rod who will presumably not have the benefit of steroids this season.
This means that it will be important for him to get as many reps as possible in games before the regular season starts. Manager Joe Girardi emphasized that A-Rod will have to prove himself for playing time. If he doesn’t have much power or consistency in spring training then it would make sense if Jones is the primary DH.
Jones has power and is consistent as he has slugged 15 or more homers in each of the last six seasons and hit a career-high of 27 in 2012. If Rodriguez can hit 15 homers this season he can form a solid DH combo with Jones, but A-Rod hitting only two fewer homers than he did in 2012 is a big if.
Rodriguez will have to get his timing down during the next seven weeks, which is why Girardi is thinking about doing something unconventional to help him do so. He doesn’t nearly have the mobility that he used to have, based on having surgery on both of his hips, which means that he is basically a liability at third.
It is very rare that a player who has played in 20 seasons could get at-bats in the minors during spring training, but that is exactly what Girardi is thinking about doing with A-Rod.
“He is going to need to get his at-bats,” Girardi said. “Will it come to a point where we have to send him to the Minor Leagues to get eight at-bats one day, maybe, to try to catch him up and speed up the process? It is a balance.” This could help him get the at-bats that he needs to prove what he has left. He will be the Yankee under the most scrutiny and media pressure during spring training, and it will be important that he is not a distraction for other players.