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A-Rod rests as Yankees fall to Orioles

NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi wasn't taking any chances.

Alex Rodriguez told his manager he was feeling a little tight before Saturday's game, so Girardi decided to give his veteran slugger the day off.

The New York Yankees missed A-Rod in a 6-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, but keeping him healthy and productive over the course of the 162-game regular season is much more important than inserting him into the lineup when he's less than 100 percent for one game in early May.

"His legs were heavy. I guess guys that are almost 40 shouldn't hit triples," Girardi joked, alluding to the triple Rodriguez hit Friday night. "So I anticipate he'll be back in there tomorrow [Sunday]."

Rodriguez has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees since coming back from a season-long suspension. Over his first 28 games, the 39-year-old designated hitter is batting .247 with seven home runs, 19 RBIs and a .348 on-base percentage. Recently, he belted career homers Nos. 660 and 661 to move into sole possession of fourth place on baseball's all-time list.

With leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury (.423 OBP) and second-place hitter Brett Gardner (.402 OBP) continuing to set the table better than any top-of-the-order duo in baseball, A-Rod should have plenty of run-producing opportunities in the middle of the lineup, so long as he keeps himself on the field.

Since appearing in 137 games in 2010, A-Rod has appeared in just 293 games since. The Yankees are a little more than halfway through a stretch in which they'll play 17 consecutive games without a day off.

"He was a little tight after the game yesterday, a little tight today, and I just said, you know what, we're gonna give you the day off," Girardi said. "I'm not taking any chances now."

On Saturday afternoon, the Yankees who were in the lineup had little chance against Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who was rarely around the middle of the plate. Chen surrendered just one run on five hits in seven innings, striking out seven.

Yankees right-hander Chase Whitley, on the other hand, served up a career-high three home runs in 5 2/3 innings.

"Hopefully those fans' hands are OK," Whitley said, speaking about balls that were rocketed into the stands by Jimmy Paredes, Chris Davis and Alejandro De Aza. "But it happens. It's baseball."

J.R. Murphy's fifth-inning sacrifice fly and Carlos Beltran's eighth-inning RBI single accounted for all of New York's offense.

Prior to the game, O's CF Adam Jones spoke highly of Rodriguez, telling ESPN Deportes that he "didn't care" that A-Rod's numbers were tainted because of PED use.

"There are so many people that did it, and who cares," Jones said. "Steroids or no steroids, the accomplishment is still unbelievable. He has been in that conversation with PEDs, but there are countless others that played the game and did the same thing and they didn't reach those accomplishments. Those accomplishments are by far some of the most tremendous things I have seen in the game of baseball. I have looked at his numbers many, many times, and they are unbelievable. I don't care if you want to say tainted or this and that, you still have to hit the baseball."

Rodriguez is still hitting the baseball now, still showing that he has something left. It's up to Girardi to make sure A-Rod can endure a 162-game season, which is why it was smart to sit him -- even if the Yankees could've used his bat for one game in early May.