<
>

First Pitch: A-Rod's healthy, bat is sick

The Yankees' party line all spring regarding Alex Rodriguez has gone something like this: He's finally healthy this year, and as long as we can keep him on the field, he will put up the kind of numbers we have all come to expect from him.

Well, guess what? So far, A-Rod's body has kept up its end of the bargain -- he has appeared in all 27 of the Yankees' games so far, starting 26 and pinch-hitting in one -- and so has Joe Girardi, who has liberally sprinkled in DH days for his 36-year-old third baseman, who had four of them this week alone.

However, A-Rod's bat is not keeping up. In his first 100 at-bats of the 2012 season, Alex Rodriguez is hitting a very un-A-Rod-like .260, with just four home runs and 11 RBI. Because he has drawn a good number of walks, his on-base percentage is a more than respectable .368. But his slugging percentage is just .400, 185 points lower than that of Derek Jeter, who is no one's idea of a power hitter.

Rodriguez, of course, is not alone in shouldering the blame for the Yankees' stunningly puny offense so far this season. He's getting plenty of help from Robby Cano (.255, 1 HR, 4 RBI) and Mark Teixeira (.229, 4, 16) and the absence of Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner from the lineup has not helped, at least recently.

But the fact that A-Rod is apparently healthy, and still not hitting, is disturbing to say the least. His numbers, projected over a full season, come out to 24 home runs and -- gasp!-- 66 RBIs, admittedly extremely unlikely totals.

The question is, how much better will they be?

"If I'm in a good place, I'm going to do what I do,'' he said after Saturday night's 5-1 loss to the Royals, in which he went 0-for-3 with a walk. "There's no question.''

But there certainly is a question, a big one. I spent a fair amount of time chatting with Rodriguez before Saturday's game and he insisted he is healthy and in agreement with Girardi's plan to DH him at least once a week.

"It's all about keeping me on the field,'' he said. "In a perfect world, I think you want to play third base 162 games a year, and never miss an inning. That's the perfect world. But our goal is, is trying to be out there close to 150 times a year, and you have to find the most creative way to do that. I mean, I don't think anyone would have predicted I'd play in every game to this point. That was all part of the stratagem, and it's working.''

Nor, however, would anyone have predicted that if Alex Rodriguez had been able to play in all 27 games so far, he would have fewer RBI than Raul Ibanez, or less than half of Swisher's total. That is not the player the Yankees chose to extend until 2017, at an average of $30 million a year, and certainly not the player they expected to get when he arrived at training camp in phenomenal shape.

But so far, that is the player Alex Rodriguez is.

The Question: Is this all that is left of A-Rod? Let us know what you think, with predicted BA, HR and RBI numbers, in the comments section below.

Up Now: The Rapid Reaction off last night's 5-1 loss, as well as a couple of blog items on what went wrong, from Hiroki Kuroda's lackluster outing to Curtis Granderson's basepath brainlock.

Coming up: Clubhouse opens at 11:30, game follows at 2:10 p.m., Phil Hughes pitches for his rotation spot against Luke Hochevar and Ill be all over it all day long, so check in periodically.

Question No. 2: Do you think Swisher's return to the lineup, which could come as early as today, wake up the slumbering lumber?

As always, thanks for reading.