Because it certainly worked out tonight.
After going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Miguel Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez was pulled from Wednesday’s game in the ninth. As you’ve probably heard, Raul Ibanez hit a game-tying homer in his place and then delivered the game-winner three innings later, giving the Yankees a 2-1 ALDS lead over the Orioles.
Of course, Rodriguez wasn’t the only Yankee to struggles versus Gonzalez tonight. He was just the most expensive. Gonzalez allowed only five hits in his seven innings. He struck out eight and walked none.
Rodriguez, though, looked bad enough that manager Joe Girardi made the decision to pull him in the ninth. And that it worked out so well should let Girardi off the hook for the poor choice to hit Rodriguez third in the first place.
Now Girardi has to make the decision all over again. That Rodriguez will start Thursday seems inevitable. But the Orioles have yet to announce who they’re going to throw in Game 4. If it’s left-hander Joe Saunders, then keeping A-Rod in the third spot makes plenty of sense. He hit lefties well all year, and he’s 7-for-16 with two homers lifetime off Saunders. If it’s right-hander Chris Tillman instead, then there’s really no way Rodriguez should hit third. It should be Mark Teixeira’s spot, with A-Rod probably hitting sixth.
That Rodriguez did hit third tonight was probably less about Girardi saving face by standing by his original decision and more about trying to instill some confidence in his former MVP. But that can’t be the rationalization any longer. A-Rod isn’t going to sulk if he’s dropped in the order. Judging by his reaction to Ibanez’s first homer tonight, Rodriguez is truly thinking team first. And he has to know as well as anyone that he’s not performing like a No. 3 hitter right now.
Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?
Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.
It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.
Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.