Thames is in, with or without A-Rod

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez is coming back. Who needs him?

The New York Yankees have Marcus Thames. Marcus Thames!

Without Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees are 21-3. With Thames, the Yankees are unbeatable.

OK, OK, we jest, but Thames has made the loss of Rodriguez easy for the Yankees to take.

Since A-Rod went on the disabled list, Thames has made it so the Yankees have not missed Rodriguez's right-handed bat. On Saturday, Thames hit another big home run, a seventh-inning, two-run shot that shattered a tie score and gave the Yankees a 7-5 victory over the Blue Jays.

With A-Rod about to return, the Yankees have won eight straight. Thames has been on fire. Over his past 10 games, he has seven homers and is batting .314.

Rodriguez will probably not take away a lot of Thames' at-bats. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the plan is for A-Rod to play as much third base as possible, leaving Thames to DH against lefties -- and some righties, too, if Lance Berkman doesn't start hitting.

"We'll find at-bats," Girardi said, showing his braces with a little laugh.

It was a knowing chuckle, because at this point he has to find at-bats for Thames. If Thames keeps hitting like he is -- or stays a facsimile of how he is crushing the ball -- the issue will be deciding who sits during the playoffs.

A-Rod will play third and bat cleanup, but the real impact could come on Berkman and Jorge Posada.

If A.J. Burnett starts a game, his designated catcher, Francisco Cervelli, will be behind the plate. Posada could be coming off the bench.

Even more so, putting the Posada combination to the side, if Berkman keeps hitting a soft .240, he may just stay on the bench with Thames DH'ing.

This is all pretty hard to imagine -- the Thames effect -- considering he was almost beat out by Jamie Hoffmann during spring training. Hoffmann was a Rule 5 player so he seemed to have the edge over Thames, who might have hung it up if he had been cut.

Thames, 33, entered the spring in the best shape of his career, but he pressed and didn't hit well. Girardi knew Thames from when Thames was a young prospect in the Yankees' organization.

"They knew what type of guy I am, and that made the transition easier," said Thames, not only speaking of Girardi, but of Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, among others.

Two days before spring training ended, Girardi told Thames the magic words. Despite not really showing that much, he would be going north with the big squad.

"I wanted it so bad," Thames said.

Thames appeared as if his job could be in jeopardy at different points during the year. The main problem for him was his glove wasn't that good. On Saturday, with Nick Swisher aching and Austin Kearns with a sore thumb, Thames even played right field.

"I got out my old dusty glove," said Thames, who hasn't played the outfield much.

Even on a windy day, Thames handled all his chances flawlessly.

He is Thames, Marcus Thames! If A-Rod is out, no problem. If Swisher is aching, no problem. Marcus Thames is there for Girardi. Even when those guys come back, Girardi is going to find a way to keep it that way.

Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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