Alex Rodriguez, sidelined since Thursday with what the Yankees are calling a strained hip flexor and A-Rod is calling a sore groin, returned to the cleanup spot Wednesday night, although not as a third baseman but as a designated hitter.
"We watched him take ground balls [Tuesday] and we just didn't think he had the lateral movement that we wanted to see quite yet," manager Joe Girardi said before his team's game against the Phillies at Yankee Stadium. "So we're going to ease him back into it. As far as playing third base, I don't have a date for it yet. He'll play soon, though."
Rodriguez went 1-for-3 with an RBI double off Brad Lidge in the ninth inning of the Yanks' 6-3 loss to the Phillies.
Rodriguez, 34, left a game in Baltimore this past Thursday after the first inning, saying he had "locked up" trying to react to a ball hit to his left by Adam Jones.
Since then, the Yankees identified the problem as a strain of the right hip flexor, and Rodriguez said that he would consult with Dr. Marc Philippon, the surgeon who operated on his right hip labrum in March 2009, fueling suspicion that the injury was related to the problem that cost him the first 28 games of last season.
"Philippon assured me the [MRI] came back as clean as it could possibly be," Rodriguez said before Tuesday night's game. "So there's no need to worry about a second surgery or anything. With that out of the way, now we can begin to focus on the groin. That's where I feel it."
Rodriguez took batting practice in the indoor cage Tuesday afternoon and again Wednesday.
Asked if his lack of mobility in the field indicated Rodriguez was not fully recovered and could, in fact, re-injure himself on the basepaths, Girardi said: "You're absolutely right, but you can control it more on the bases. He just felt [Tuesday] he wasn't quite ready to make the lateral movements that it takes to play third base. He might take ground balls [Wednesday] and feel great. We'll evaluate him on a daily basis."
Girardi said serving as a DH would allow Rodriguez to continue rehabbing the injury during the game. "He'll have the luxury of having someone stretch him all the time. He can get on the exercise bike. He can even put a heating pad on if he likes."
Even before the injury, Rodriguez was having a subpar season by his standards in terms of power, with just eight home runs in 224 at-bats. "It's definitely not because of [the injury]," he said. "That to me was a very obvious situation. I couldn't catch up with anything over 88 [mph]. That's not the situation this year. As far as my numbers, they're just down. But you know, the year's not over yet."
In Rodriguez's place, Kevin Russo started at third base and batted eighth. He had a hit in three at-bats.