The First Spring A-Rod Story That Matters: Will He Play Tomorrow?

Alex Rodriguez The Alex Rodriguez coverage continues to be almost entirely laughable this spring, but yesterday afternoon a few reports came out that were actually worth the time it took to write them.  With the Yankees' ST opener about a day away, the question has been raised of whether A-Rod will play in that game and if so, at what position?  The beat guys got on this yesterday and didn't turn up much.  Alex said he had to talk to Joe first, Joe said he had to talk to Alex first, and it sounded like everybody was going to get back and talk about it together today before making a decision.

The Yanks will play a 6-inning intrasquad game today with a pitching machine, and as of this morning it's still unknown if A-Rod will even participate in that game.  While there will be little to take from his performance in his first game, whenever that may be, I do think the Yankees realize that this decision does carry more weight with it than it normally would.  They have multiple factors to consider here, and it behooves them to not rush to any decisions.

The biggest concern for the Yankees is seeing what A-Rod looks like at the plate.  He's gotten some positive reports on his BP sessions, but BP is BP and a far cry from facing live in-game pitching.  The only way to accurately judge if he's got anything left in the tank (and the bat) is to get A-Rod back in real game action and see how he fairs.  The easiest way to do that is to use him in the DH spot in the lineup, and if his body is feeling good enough to handle it, I would expect to see him there tomorrow.

But therein lies the other side of the "can A-Rod still play?" coin, that being his health.  In the same way that his baseball skills won't be truly tested until he's using them in live baseball situations, his hips and the rest of his body won't face their true test until they're asked to perform to 100% of their capabilities in those live game situations.  Sure the hip feels good now when he's taking easy BP hacks.  How's it going to feel the first time he hits a ball into the gap and has to bust it around first base to make a double?  As important as getting him reps is, it's more important to make sure A-Rod's body is feeling good and ready to play.  He's of no value to the team at all if he's back on the DL.

The Yankees are caught in this limbo between needing to get Alex back on the field to get his timing back and see if he can still play and wanting to make sure he's all the way back physically before putting him into games.  I expect that's why everybody was saying what they were saying yesterday, and I expect today's talk between Alex, Joe, and whoever else may be involved to center around his physical condition more than his baseball-related preparedness.  The Yanks have taken it pretty easy on him in the field so far, giving him more light work at first base than  third.  Perhaps they want to make sure putting A-Rod in the lineup tomorrow isn't too big of a next step.