For two days, Yankees manager Joe Girardi deflected questions about moving third baseman Alex Rodriguez down in the batting order for last night’s Game 3 of the ALDS vs. Baltimore due to A-Rod’s recent struggles.
Girardi explained his decision to keep A-Rod near the top of the lineup by saying trust was a major piece of the Yankees’ success. He reiterated how important it is for him to trust his players and that his players trust him. And after Wednesday night, his players have multiple reasons to trust their skipper.
Two moves the manager made in the Yankees’ 12-inning comeback win over the Orioles give fans, media, and most importantly, his players plenty of reasons to trust the fifth-year manager.
The most notable move was pinch-hitting for Rodriguez with the game on the line in bottom of the ninth inning as the Yankees trailed, 3-2. Girardi called on 40-year-old Raul Ibanez to pinch-hit for Rodriguez. The two players’ history together goes back to Appleton Foxes of the Midwest League in 1994. Ibanez, a 36th-round draft pick of Seattle out of Miami, spent much of his time in the minors behind the plate. His was a slow climb through the minors to the big leagues. Rodriguez, a No. 1 overall selection by Seattle out of Miami in 1993, was on a fast track to the bigs, making his debut in 1994.
But on October 10, 2012, Girardi had more faith in the lefty Ibanez against the Orioles’ premier closer Jim Johnson. And Ibanez rewarded his manager, not once, but twice. His solo home run in the ninth inning sent the game into extra frames. Ibanez, making just $1.1 million this season with no 2013 contract, came up again leading off the 12th inning off tough young lefthander Brian Matusz. Ibanez sent another pitch into the right field seats for a walk-off winner.
The other decision Girardi made? It may be meaningless, but Derek Jeter was not on the field for the final 12 outs. After fouling a pitch off his foot early in the game, Jeter was noticeably limping after singling in the sixth. Girardi called on Jayson Nix to play shortstop in the ninth inning. Last night, the defensive replacement was most likely due to an ailing Jeter. But the door is open for Girardi to replace the future Hall of Famer on defense late in games. Will a healthy Jeter be replaced later this postseason? Maybe not, but Girardi has earned some trust among all his players should he pull the trigger and pull Jeter late in games.
-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)