NEW YORK -- With the microscope on Alex Rodriguez's sluggish start to 2012 becoming increasingly amplified, the Yankees' third baseman has quietly put together impressive numbers when he gets a breather from playing the field.
In 22 games as a designated hitter this season, Rodriguez is hitting .353 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, but entered Sunday hitting just .240 in the 59 games he had started at third base. While he started at third base in the Yankees' series finale with the Angels, Rodriguez could find his name penciled in at DH for another game over the homestand.
"It's not a sample size I'm unaware of," manager Joe Girardi said. "It could be a rare coincidence, or there could be something to it. I'm not sure yet. It is a smaller sample size, but I'm well aware of it."
Girardi said he's not ready to make long-term decisions based on Rodriguez's production as a DH, but believes it's a situation he needs to continuously monitor. While Eric Chavez has offered some flexibility at third base, Girardi still wants to be careful with him due to his prior history with injuries.
"We have to protect him as well, because I think he's really important to this club," Girardi said of Chavez.
When or if the Yankees get Brett Gardner back to play outfield, they likely will use Raul Ibanez as their primary DH. The 40-year-old outfielder was initially signed over the offseason to serve in that role, but Gardner's injury has forced Ibanez to regularly play the field.
Girardi hasn't had a talk with Rodriguez about whether he'd like to DH more, but the numbers have given the Yankees' manager something to think about. Rodriguez's on-base percentage shoots up from .336 to .417 when he starts at DH, and his slugging percentage increases from .404 to .529.
"I actually kind of peeked up at the scoreboard the other day and saw the numbers look pretty good," said Rodriguez. "But I don't see anything to that. I love playing third base and my legs feel good."
"These are things that we have to look at, and things that we have to piece together," Girardi said.