NEW YORK — The big news coming before Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Friday afternoon was that New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi had benched their most expensive player, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, due to Rodriguez's continued struggles at the plate.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, however, took the move in stride.
"No, it didn't surprise anybody," Showalter said. "Joe is going to do what he thinks is best for his team. He knows his people better than anybody else."
Rodriguez had just two hits and nine strikeouts in 16 at-bats in the first four games of this series and had just four hits in his two previous postseasons for the Yankees. On Wednesday, Girardi pinch-hit Raul Ibanez for Rodriguez, and on Thursday he pinch-hit Eric Chavez for the 37-year-old Rodriguez, who is making $29 million this season and is signed through 2017.
"Well, I mean, obviously I'm not happy. I was disappointed — you want to be in there in the worst way," Rodriguez said before Friday's game. "But I'm telling you guys, this is not a story about one person. This is about a team, and we have some unfinished business today. Our objective is to win one game tonight and to keep this thing moving.''
Girardi benched the right-handed hitter Friday and replaced him with Chavez, a lefty, against Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel. Chavez was just 1-for-6 against Hammel in his career, but he hits right-handers better than Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was 8-for-24 with four homers in his career against Hammel.
However, including Game 1 of the ALDS, Rodriguez was just 2-for-9 with two singles and three walks against Hammel in 2012. All of his major damage occurred from 2006 to 2008, when Hammel was with Tampa Bay.
"It is difficult. He has meant a lot to the organization, the game of baseball over the years. And he has been a very productive hitter," Girardi said of Rodriguez. "But he struggled against right-handers in the series, and Chavy has been good against right-handers all year long. I made a decision to start Chavy today."
From a tactical standpoint, Showalter said it just means another good hitter is available off the bench for the Yankees.
"It creates some good options for him on the bench, just like it was with Chavez on the bench. And they are going to have someone on the bench who has a real track record of success every night," Showalter said. "They have it with Ibañez, they had it with Chavez, and [Jayson] Nix played well against us, too. … You pick your poison. It is all poison potentially."
Hashing out a potential rotation
Showalter didn't want to reveal his hand, particularly with the Orioles needing to beat the Yankees on Friday to advance to Saturday's American League Championship Series, but he said he felt like he had options to start if his team made the ALCS.
Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Tillman were the most likely choices. Chen would be pitching on normal rest. Tillman hasn't pitched since the Orioles' regular season finale Oct. 3 in Tampa Bay.
Miguel Gonzalez would be the likeliest option to start Game 2 in Detroit on regular rest, even though the Orioles have worked hard to give Chen and Gonzalez extra days off when possible.
Based on how the Tigers rotation has worked out, right-hander Doug Fister would likely be Detroit's Game 1 starter with right-hander Anibal Sanchez going in Game 2. Reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander, who tossed a complete game in Detroit's ALDS Game 5 win Thursday night, would likely start Game 3 in Baltimore on Tuesday, and right-hander Max Scherzer would pitch Game 4 on Wednesday at Camden Yards. It sets up that Verlander could pitch a Game 7, if necessary.
Game times for the ALCS
Major League Baseball announced the game times for the American League Championship Series, which will start in Detroit on Saturday at 8:07 p.m. if the Orioles advance. Sunday's game will be at 4:07 p.m. and then the series will shift to Baltimore for Tuesday and Wednesday at 8:07 p.m. and Thursday, if necessary, at 4:07 p.m. Potential Games 6 and 7 would be in Detroit at 8:07 and 8:15 respectively.
If the Yankees win Friday, the times will remain the same, but the first two games and potential final two games will be played in New York while the middle three would be played in Detroit.
All ALCS games will be televised by TBS; Fox will broadcast the NLCS games.
Around the horn
Orioles left-hander Zach Britton and infielder Wilson Betemit (wrist) flew from Sarasota, Fla., to New York on Friday to join the team in case the club advanced to the ALCS. They would be options, Showalter said, but are not guaranteed for the potential next round. Teams must submit their ALCS rosters by 10 a.m. Saturday. … The Orioles' 13-inning victory Thursday night was the longest extra-inning postseason game in Orioles history. … Showalter had 199 wins with the Orioles heading into Friday.
Baltimore Sun reporter Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, CT Now