By Pete Caldera The Record (Hackensack N.J.)
SEATTLE — Alex Rodriguez dropped in the Safeco Field batter’s box holding his damaged left hand as he rocked on his back. The pain was such that he refused to let Yankees head athletic trainer Steve Donohue immediately remove his batting glove.
“I just had a weird feeling that it wasn’t good,” Mark Teixeira said of witnessing the effects of Tuesday night’s eighth-inning pitch by Seattle starter Felix Hernandez that struck A-Rod flush.
X-rays revealed A-Rod had a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal, an injury that could cost him anywhere from four to eight weeks.
Not only did the Yankees lose their All-Star third baseman, they lost for the fifth time in their last six games.
King Felix out-dueled Freddy Garcia in the Mariners’ 4-2 victory, on a night that left the Yankees to once again carry on without an injured star.
“I don’t know why this one hurts more than the other ones, but we’ll pick it up,” said Eric Chavez, the veteran who will immediately fill the void at third base on Wednesday as the Yankees play the final game of a rocky Western road trip.
Chavez had the exact same injury to his right hand in 2004 and missed a shade over five weeks.
When a glum-looking A-Rod finally emerged by his locker late Tuesday night, he softly said he’d been given no timetables for his recovery.
Despite the pain of being drilled by King Felix’s 88 mph changeup, “I never thought fracture,” A-Rod said, speaking barely above a whisper. “It’s difficult. Tough break…tough blow.”
With that, Rodriguez abruptly walked away, his left hand in a heavy wrap.
“He’s very frustrated, but we’re not going to have him and we’re going to have to find a way,” said manager Joe Girardi. “I’m not sure exactly what we’re going to do.”
Girardi mentioned having to monitor how much he plays the injury-prone Chavez, though he could get the bulk of playing time. Jayson Nix could also see time at third base and Eduardo Nunez has recovered from his thumb injury and playing again in the minors.
At Class AAA Empire State, third baseman Brandon Laird is batting .248 with 10 homers and 58 RBI.
And with the non-waiver trade deadline in six days, anything’s possible – just look at Ichiro Suzuki playing right field for the Yanks in place of the injured Brett Gardner.
Since spring training, the Yankees have seen Gardner, Mariano Rivera and Michael Pineda lost to season-ending surgeries. Andy Pettitte is out until September with a fractured ankle and Joba Chamberlain is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and a dislocated ankle.
“You know, you find out how good you are,” Derek Jeter said. “Other guys have to step up. It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge for all of us.”
A-Rod was the third Yankee hit by Hernandez on Tuesday night; Jeter absorbed a fastball above the left elbow to start the eighth inning and Ichiro was plugged in the right foot – the first time he’s been hit by a pitch in over two years – in the seventh inning.
None of those pitches were seen as intentional by the Yankees (58-39) in such a close game with the Mariners (43-56), whose trade of Ichiro on Monday ushered in their rebuilding phase.
In a disappointing season, A-Rod (1-for-2, walk) had begun to heat up a bit. He’d hit his 15th homer of the year on Monday and was 9-for-22 (.409) on the road trip before the injury.
“We were hoping he’d go on one of those tears that would carry us for a couple of weeks,” said Teixeira, adding that “it makes the Ichiro (trade) even bigger.”
Ichiro could move back up to the top of the order, possibly second, with Curtis Granderson – who hit his 27th homer in the first inning — moving to the middle of the lineup.
“You hate to see a guy go down with something like that, but we have gotten through it before,” Teixeira said. “I expect nothing less from the guys.”
On Tuesday, the Yankees were held to only five hits and they squandered opportunities in the fourth and fifth innings.
Teixeira’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly cut the lead to 3-2 in the eighth, but Raul Ibanez struck out against lefty Lucas Luetge to end the inning.
Girardi preferred that matchup over pinch-hitter Andruw Jones versus Brandon League, the likely counter move.
Garcia yielded three runs by the third inning, including a solo homer to Michael Saunders, but retired the last 15 batters he faced before being lifted for Clay Rapada – starting a chain of four relievers in the eighth. The Mariners got one run, on Kyle Seager’s check-swing infield hit, for a 4-2 lead.
Jeter scored his 1,823rd career run, surpassing Eddie Collins for 15th on the all-time list.