Notes: After MRI, A-Rod back in action
Rodriguez in lineup as designated hitter; Posada gets night off
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez bowed his head, charging through the tunnel that leads to the Yankees clubhouse. Game No. 140 was an hour away, and he appeared to be on a mission.
"I've got to talk to the manager," Rodriguez said, brushing past a group of reporters and quickly moving through a doorway in pursuit of Joe Torre.
Whatever Rodriguez said to the skipper, it worked. One night after rolling his right ankle on a seventh-inning play at third base, and shortly after leaving Yankee Stadium for a midafternoon MRI, A-Rod returned to the Bronx and talked his way into the lineup as the designated hitter.
Rodriguez, who leads the Major Leagues in home runs, RBIs and runs scored, was in the original lineup on Wednesday at third base, but was sent to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center for a precautionary examination -- against his will, it seemed.
"I don't understand. You've got to talk to Dr. [Stuart] Hershon," he said, preparing for the trip into Manhattan. "I thought I was ready to roll. ... I was ready to play, but they're sending me to get an MRI."
The MRI revealed a sprained and bruised right ankle.
Torre said that the procedure was "safety first," and briefly drew up a lineup without Rodriguez's name, but altered the batting order shortly before game time.
"My understanding is that Alex did not want to go," general manager Brian Cashman said. "I think he probably thinks it's a waste of time."
Limping earlier in the day, Rodriguez raced through sprints on the warning track while the Seattle Mariners completed batting practice -- evidence enough that the ankle was well enough at least for some at-bats. Instead, Jorge Posada -- the Yankees' original DH for Wednesday -- was given the day off.
The play in question occurred in New York's seven-run seventh inning on Tuesday, as Rodriguez went from first to third on a Posada single. Sliding headfirst into third base, Rodriguez felt Mariners third baseman Adrian Beltre roll over his right ankle. The All-Star cried out in pain as Torre and a trainer moved quickly to attend to him.
Torre said that the play reminded him of Derek Jeter's collision with Blue Jays catcher Ken Huckaby on Opening Day 2003, which separated his shoulder, with one major exception.
"It had some earmarks of Jeter in Toronto to me; just the same angle, everything," Torre said. "But Jeter didn't move."
Come on back: Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang will be back on the mound sooner than expected, having eased the lower back stiffness that forced him from Tuesday's start. Using heat pads as the tool of choice, Wang said that he "feels good" and that the stiffness was "not a problem."
Because of his low pitch count (86), the Yankees now plan to pitch Wang -- the club's winningest pitcher, with 17 victories, and 14-2 in his last 16 decisions -- on Sunday at Kansas City. That maneuver perhaps lines up Mike Mussina for a start at Toronto.
Torre said that he addressed the situation with Mussina, laying out the thought process that he did not need Wang to pitch with six days between starts, and that he wanted to keep the ground-ball artist off the artificial turf at Rogers Centre.
Cashman said that with Roger Clemens out, Phil Hughes pitching erratically and Mussina trying to work his way back in, members of the staff would have to take their assignments whenever offered.
"It's September, and it's all hands on deck," Cashman said. "So whatever we have going on, deal with it. If you start letting yourself get concerned about it, you're not going to get through it. So, all hands on deck. We're in a sprint, and I want to cross that finish line, so we'll find a way."
Mussina is still expected to get a start in place of Clemens, who received a cortisone injection on Wednesday in Houston. Clemens is expected to miss the upcoming weekend series in Kansas City, but Torre expects the 45-year-old right-hander to join the club in Toronto.
"Talking to him before he went to Houston, it made me feel like, 'I'll see you shortly,' " Torre said.
Sore spot: Luis Vizcaino revealed that he has been pitching with a sore right shoulder, which may account for his recent struggles. Vizcaino has allowed five runs in his last two appearances, spanning one inning, including a third of a frame on Tuesday against the Mariners.
As a precaution, the Yankees plan to rest Vizcaino for at least a few days, Torre said. In the meantime, right-handers Joba Chamberlain, Edwar Ramirez and Brian Bruney can help fill the void along the bridge to closer Mariano Rivera.
Stay ready: Chamberlain has not pitched since Aug. 30, the day he was ejected by home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez for throwing two fastballs over the head of Boston's Kevin Youkilis. After serving a two-game suspension and sitting out for three more, the 21-year-old rookie seems to be getting antsy.
"He asked me today if he was still on the active roster," Torre said.
Bright eyes: Andy Phillips' right arm may be in a sling, but the first baseman is keeping his upbeat attitude. One day after having a pisiform bone extracted from his right wrist, Phillips spoke optimistically about his season, what he'd achieved and a possible return in time for the playoffs.
"[It was rewarding] to fight back to get up here and feel like I was a part of helping this team get back in the race, because I think there were a lot of question marks about this team," Phillips said. "To get back in and help out [makes this] by far my most gratifying year so far. If they finish this thing off, it'll really be good."
Phillips said that the bone was actually more fractured than expected, so it was a good thing he opted for surgery over rehab. The 29-year-old is expected to miss four to six weeks, but Torre would not rule out the idea that he could be added to a potential playoff roster in October.
"It'd be nice," Phillips said. "That's my goal. It gives me something to shoot for."
Bombers bits: Right-hander Ian Kennedy, who starts on Friday at Kansas City, has set his wedding for Oct. 6 -- smack in the middle of a potential American League Division Series. "We just hope his prospective wife is very understanding," Torre said. ... Left-hander Ron Villone (back) is eligible to be activated from the disabled list in time for Friday's game at Kansas City. "It was what I needed, and the time has come now," Villone said.
Coming up: The Yankees enjoy an off-day on Thursday before heading to Kansas City for a three-game weekend series beginning on Friday. Kennedy (1-0, 1.29 ERA) gets the call for his second Major League start in the opener, opposite right-hander Gil Meche (7-12, 3.85). First pitch from Kauffman Stadium is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. ET on the YES Network.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.