Matthew Pouliot

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez isn’t the Yankees’ backup third baseman any longer

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Alex Rodriguez, who has started two games at third base playing behind Chase Headley this season, will likely be limited to DH duties for the foreseeable future, manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News.

A-Rod has been bothered by a sore left hamstring, and while that’s not a major issue, the Yankees think they can spare him aches and pains by keeping him out of the field. That also probably means no more starts at first base, where he’s played just once this year and looked pretty awkward in doing so.

With A-Rod out of the mix, Stephen Drew has started taking grounders at third base and likely will play there whenever Headley needs a day off. Drew is still the Yankees’ primary second baseman, but the team is looking to work Jose Pirela more into the mix anyway.

Rodriguez entered Tuesday’s game with a .250/.360/.558 line and eight homers in 104 at-bats this season.

First-inning success fueling Yankees start, while failures bury Indians

Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner
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In theory, anyway, every manager in baseball designs his lineup to give his team the best chance of scoring in the first inning of the game. And it generally works: there have been 509 runs scored in the first innings of games this year, 23 more than the next highest-scoring inning.

One team’s pitching staff hasn’t been contributing to that total, though. The Pittsburgh Pirates have allowed just three first-inning runs in 31 games. It’s not simply the best mark in baseball, but it blows everyone else out of the water. No other team has allowed fewer than 10 first-inning runs.

First-inning runs allowed
1. Pirates – 3
2. Nationals – 10
2. Royals – 10
4. Giants – 12
4. Marlins – 12
4. Rays – 12

27. Blue Jays – 24
27. Dodgers – 24
27. Red Sox – 24
30. Indians – 27

On the flip side, the Pirates have been a middling offensive team in the first, totaling 14 runs. The Yankees lead the way there.

First-inning runs scored
1. Yankees – 31
2. Braves – 28
2. Tigers – 28
4. Padres – 27

26. Marlins – 11
26. Mets – 11
28. Indians – 10
29. Phillies – 9
30. White Sox – 7

The Yankees have the game’s best run-differential in the first inning this year, which plays a big role in their 20-12 record. They’ve outscored the opposition by 17 runs in the first and just 13 over the remainder of the game.

First-inning run differential
1. Yankees +17
2. Pirates +11
2. Royals +11
4. Tigers +10
5. Padres +9

27. Phillies -11
27. Red Sox -11
29. White Sox -13
30. Indians -17

We can also see just how difficult it is to consistently dig out of an early hole. The Red Sox and Indians were both expected by most to be contenders this year, and the White Sox had their share of backers, as well. All are struggling. The Indians, with the AL’s worst record at 11-19, have a -17 run differential in the first, though they’re practically matching the competition the rest of the way (-2 from the second inning on).

Red Sox place Shane Victorino on 15-day disabled list

Shane Victorino
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The Red Sox probably got a little better today in placing Shane Victorino on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring.

Due to various ailments, Victorino has been day-to-day since pretty much the start of the spring, and he’s hit just .143/.302/.171 in 35 at-bats to begin the regular season. He also hasn’t looked like his old self in right field. It seems pretty obvious that he can’t help the Red Sox unless he’s 100 percent — and perhaps not then — so it makes sense to sit him out for a couple of weeks to get him healthy.

With Rusney Castillo still on the minor league DL because of a shoulder injury, the Red Sox will get by with some combination of Brock Holt, Daniel Nava and Allen Craig in right field. Holt probably deserves most of the playing time against right-handers, considering he’s off to a 14-for-33 start at the plate and he’s the best defender in the group.

Matt Barnes was called up from Triple-A as Victorino’s replacement, giving the Red Sox the eight-man bullpen they might need with their rotation of 5 1/3-inning pitchers.