By TIM BOOTH, Associated Press
SEATTLE (AP) — With Alex Rodriguez headed for the disabled list and possibly out into September, Eric Chavez will get his chance to prove to the New York Yankees that his injury problems are in the past and he can be an everyday position player again.
That's not to say Yankees manager Joe Girardi won't be closely monitoring the injury-prone Chavez.
"You just have to be smart about it and know that he's had some ailments that he's had to deal with over his career. He's had a back issue and a shoulder issue and you just have to watch him," Girardi said before Wednesday's series finale against the Seattle Mariners. "I told him, I said if you feel something I have to know. Let's not get to a point where you really break down and then we lose you for a substantial amount of time."
Rodriguez was being fitted for a splint by Seattle's team doctors on Wednesday morning, ahead of his return to New York and examination by Yankees physicians, likely on Thursday. Rodriguez sustained a non-displaced fracture of his left hand when he was hit by an 88 mph changeup from Felix Hernandez in the eighth inning Tuesday night.
For now, the Yankees intend to use a combination of Chavez and Jayson Nix to fill Rodriguez's spot at third, with the possibility of Ramiro Pena providing some extra flexibility for Girardi. Pena was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday after Rodriguez was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Another option could be Eduardo Nunez, who played in 112 games at various positions for the Yankees last season. He was sent down to the minors in May and almost immediately was sidelined by a thumb injury. He rejoined Class A Tampa on Monday and was en route to Scranton on Wednesday.
Chavez's start Wednesday was his 25th at third base this year and his 65th game overall. He has not played more than 100 games in a season since playing 137 with Oakland in 2006. Since then, he's been slowed by shoulder, back, foot and neck injuries.
"Whatever he asks me to do I'll give it my best shot," Chavez said late Tuesday night.
Chavez knows what Rodriguez is about to face. Chavez sustained nearly the same injury during the 2004 season and missed five weeks. He still managed to play 125 games at third base for Oakland that season and hit .276 with 29 homers. Chavez was significantly better after the injury that season, hitting .295 over the final 76 games after returning on July 9.
There's no guarantee Rodriguez, who has struggled for much of the season, will have the same improvement.
Rodriguez has been durable this season after failing to play at least 150 games since 2007. He had played in all but three of the Yankees' 97 games this year after playing just 99 last season.
But A-Rod's production has fallen way off. He was hitting just .274 with 15 homers and 44 RBIs entering Tuesday's game, although he was hitting .328 over his last 16 games.
Rodriguez joins a lengthy injury list that includes Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda, Joba Chamberlain, Andy Pettitte and Brett Gardner. The Yankees felt the need to replace what they lost in Gardner by trading with Seattle to acquire Ichiro Suzuki.
The Yankees appeared to be done with any big moves before the non-waiver trade deadline in a week. For now, New York is hoping Chavez can be the bridge until Rodriguez returns, likely in late August or September.
"We're going to miss him. But we've had some other guys who have went down that have been ... guys like Alex and we have found a way to replace them," Girardi said. "We're going to have to do it again until he gets back."
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