Joe hopes A-Rod can make a 'big impact'

Joe Girardi thinks his team needs a spark. And he's looking to Alex Rodriguez to provide it.

"You hope (Rodriguez) comes back swinging like he did before he got hurt; that's the idea," Girardi said of his injured third baseman. "This is a guy who's supposed to be an impact player for us. So you hope he makes a big impact."

Rodriguez faced live pitching on Friday night for the first time since breaking his left hand over a month ago.

He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored while on rehab assignment in Tampa and could be back with the big club as early as Monday.

At the time of his injury, Rodriguez was batting .276 with 15 homers and 44 RBI. So it's unclear just how much he can give the Yanks, whose division lead is down to two games.

But with Mark Teixeira out until at least Thursday, Rodriguez can at least lend credibility to a Yankee lineup that's been thin of late.

HARD-LUCK HIROKI: Here's all you need to know about Hiroki Kuroda: he's pitched into the ninth in his last two starts and lost both of them.

Kuroda made just two mistakes all night on Friday, but they proved costly.

He gave up a three-run homer to Mark Reynolds in the second and a solo shot to J.J. Hardy in the sixth. In between, he retired 12 straight Orioles.

On the night, Kuroda allowed four runs on eight hits in 8 1/3 innings.

Afterward, he didn't complain about the lack of run support, even though the Yanks have scored one run in each of his last two starts.

"In order to win, I have to limit the damage," he said through an interpreter.