First Pitch: Tex down, A-Rod next?

On Monday, Joe Girardi made the move a lot of people thought was overdue, dropping Mark Teixeira from fifth to seventh in his batting order.

Now, with the Yankees having lost three in a row, seven of their last nine, and having fallen into the AL East cellar alongside the Boston Red Sox, it may be time for the manager to take the next step: Dropping Alex Rodriguez out of the cleanup spot.

A-Rod can talk all he wants about feeling strong and healthy, as he has all season, and about still thinking he's going to "crush th eball'' every time up, as he did after the Yankees were shut out, 6-0, by the Royals Monday night.

But the signs are ominous -- if he's truly healthy and strong, why does he only have five home runs, the same as Derek Jeter? -- and when he hits a ball as hard as he did on Sunday only to see it die on the warning track, it no longer makes you wonder if he is diminished. You just wonder how much?

What is clear, however, is that the 2012 version of Alex Rodriguez is a cleanup hitter in name and reputation only. He can still be an effective bat in the lineup -- his .276 batting average is third behind Jeter's .343 and Robby Cano's .303 among the regulars -- but only the most optimistic, or nostalgic of us can still think of him as fearsome.

In fact, sometimes he is easy to forget he is even in the lineup. Sad to say, Alex Rodriguez is just an average bat these days, and the No. 4 slot in the Yankee batting order is not the place for an average bat.

Maybe it's time to designate Cano the everyday cleanup hitter, and drop A-Rod to fifth, or even sixth, between say, Curtis Granderson and Teixeira.

Monday night, A-Rod was asked about Girardi's decision to drop Teixeira, and even though his spot in the lineup was not mentioned or questioned, it seemed obvious that Rodriguez thought that was what was being discussed.

"One through nine, we're not swinging the bats well,'' he said. "It doesn't matter how you shuffle it. I don't really care where I hit. I know what I can do.''

If that's the case, then it's time to make the switch. After all, it seems to have A-Rod's blessing, which brings us to . . .

Question No. 1: Where would you put A-Rod in the Yankees lineup. Answers below. And keep it clean, thank you.

Up now: My column off last night's debacle. Also, blog items on A-Rod ("I feel like crushing the ball''), the fans ("Let 'em boo'') and the Yankees walking wounded.

Coming later: Mark Simon with another fine Yankees What2Watch4 at 11:30 p.m., followed by my own unique brand of clubhouse prowling beginning at 3:20 p.m., followed by Phil Hughes (3-5, 5.23) vs. LHP Luke Hochevar (3-4, 7.02) tonight at 7:05 p.m.

Question No. 2: If the Yankees can only make one major move at the trading deadline, should they be looking for pitching or hitting? Lemme know.

As always, thanks for reading.