With Alex Rodriguez suspension looming, Yankees still looking for help at third base


Yankees Alex Rodriguez.JPG
                    Alex Rodriguez is still awaiting word on a possible suspension from Major League Baseball, and the Yankees are inquiring about potential replacements at third base.                                             (Jeff Blake/USA TODAY Sports)

Andy McCullough/The Star-Ledger By Andy McCullough/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger Follow on Twitter on July 30, 2013 at 10:22 PM, updated July 31, 2013 at  2:07 AM



LOS ANGELES — A potentially career-ending suspension hangs over the head of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, but manager Joe Girardi insisted Tuesday afternoon he is still operating under the assumption Rodriguez will play for the team in the majors this season.

Girardi reminded that the team still intends for Rodriguez to play in either a rehab game or a simulated game Thursday. Rodriguez is currently recovering from a much-disputed, Grade 1 strain of his left quadriceps.

“If we didn’t think he was going to be with us,” Girardi said before Tuesday night’s game against the Dodgers, “we wouldn’t do those things.”

But by Thursday, the landscape of baseball could have shifted seismically. One place it is sure to be affected is third base for the Yankees. The situation is multi-layered. The most prominent involves Rodriguez, who appears dead-set on appealing the impending suspension. But there is also the trade deadline, and the health of shortstop Derek Jeter.

Major League Baseball is expected to levy suspensions later this week. Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday that almost all of the players ensnared in the investigation are likely to accept their penalties. But Rodriguez is an exception. His attorney, David Cornwell, insisted in a radio interview Monday that Rodriguez intends to appeal, and looks to avoid all discipline in this matter.

But commissioner Bud Selig could invoke his power to keep Rodriguez off the field in “the best interests of the game,” while Rodriguez appeals. Plus, there is the issue of Rodriguez’s health. He complained of quadriceps issues throughout his rehab assignment earlier this month.

So the Yankees are looking outside the organization for help. They have had discussions about Phillies third baseman Michael Young and Angels third baseman Alberto Callapso, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person requested anonymity because no deals had been finalized.

Young possesses a full no-trade clause. Fox Sports reported Tuesday that Young would only accept a trade to Texas, his long-time employers, who dealt him to Philadelphia this past winter. A report from ESPN indicated Young might also accept a deal to Boston, with the Yankees as his third choice.

If the Yankees cannot make an upgrade on the trade market, they’ll be left with few palatable options. Jayson Nix returned to the lineup last night after missing almost all of July with a strained hamstring. He started at third base. But Girardi would not commit to him as the everyday player.

“There’s nothing etched in stone,” Girardi said. “Third base has been a revolving door, a little bit. But he’ll get his share of playing time there.”

Another in-house option is Brent Lillibridge. A third is even more intriguing: Eduardo Nunez.

Until recently, the Yankees had committed to using Nunez only as a shortstop. He is an erratic defender, and the team thought he would benefit from playing just one position. That stance has softened since Jeter’s return. Girardi indicated Nunez would begin taking some grounders at third base to reacclimate himself.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do there,” Girardi said. “I want to see him work out there a couple days before we do anything.”

In a couple days, perhaps the picture will be clearer. Or, perhaps it may not.