General manager Brian Cashman acknowledged Thursday what has seemed obvious for the past few weeks: The New York Yankees are more likely to carry Alex Rodriguez through the postseason than the other way around, because the third baseman's thumb is still hurting.
"He's got a Grade I sprain and it's not going to go away completely this season," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com. "It only goes away with time which is not something that's necessarily in our favor."
On Wednesday, manager Joe Girardi expressed optimism that A-Rod, who has not played since Sept. 9, would be in the lineup when the Yankees open a three-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto Friday night. But Rodriguez seemed less sure about his prospects of playing on Friday.
"I don't want to mislead you guys, but I haven't touched a bat in five days," he said. "Maybe (Girardi) is more confident than me. Hopefully, that plan works out."
Cashman said Rodriguez's injury was not likely to require offseason surgery.
"It's a sprained collateral ligament and it's more of an irritating thing than anything else," he said. "It could take six days, or 15 days, or 30 days, and even if he feels 100 percent, one wrong move or one bad swing or checked swing or dive or whatever could bring it right back to square one again. It's just something he's going to have to deal with."
Rodriguez first suffered the sprain to his left thumb on Aug. 21 while diving for a grounder in his first game back after spending six weeks on the disabled list recovering from surgery on his right knee in July. He aggravated the injury a few days later taking batting practice and has appeared in just nine of the team's last 24 games, batting .194 (7-for-36) with two home runs and four RBIs over that span.
Overall, A-Rod, who turned 36 in July, is hitting .284 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs. He has not failed to hit at least 30 home runs or drive in at least 100 runs since 1997, when he was a 21-year-old Seattle Mariner, goals that are unattainable this season.
Still, Cashman said he believes Rodriguez could still be a productive hitter for the Yankees in the postseason.
"We're trying to put him in the best position to perform at the level he's capable of performing at, giving him the time now," Cashman said. "Because there will be a period when we won't have any more time to give him because it will be all hands on deck."
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.