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06/18/09 2:02 PM ET

A-Rod trying to fight through slump

Yanks third baseman still not 100 percent after hip surgery

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez isn't entirely sure why he's hitting so badly right now. He's been through plenty of slumps before, so this current skid could just be part of the natural cycle of a long season. Or even though he wish it weren't true, it could be something a bit more concerning for him and the Yankees.

But one thing is for sure: Rodriguez is still feeling the effects of hip surgery that kept him out for more than a month to begin the year. Even though he won't readily admit that an injury is preventing him from hitting the way he is used to, his balky hip certainly isn't helping the cause.

Rodriguez has seen his average dip to .219 with nine home runs and 26 RBIs, and he has looked progressively worse during the past few weeks. He has clearly been favoring his hip while running the bases and playing third base lately, and he has been seen limping around the clubhouse after games.

Rodriguez has not had more than one hit in a game since May 25, when he went 5-for-5 in Texas. Since then, he is 13-for-70 (.186) with two homers and nine RBIs.

"I'm seeing the ball well. The big issue is the body and responding," Rodriguez said on Wednesday. "I can hit. I'm always going to be able to hit, I know that. ... There are some days where your body's just not bouncing back the way I like it to."

The injury may have affected the Yankees' strategy in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Nationals. Rodriguez was on first with one out when second baseman Robinson Cano bounced into a game-ending double play. It seemed that it might have made sense for Rodriguez to try to steal second in that situation to try to stay out of the twin-killing.

Manager Joe Girardi defended his decision not to send Rodriguez before Thursday's contest against Washington, saying that he thought about it but called it a "double-edged sword." He was worried about the possibility of Cano lining into a double play or potentially taking the bat out of on-deck hitter Jorge Posada if Rodriguez was thrown out.

Nevertheless, Girardi acknowledged Rodriguez's health was at least a minor factor in his decision.

"Al's physically probably not running as well as he was last year, but he's close," Girardi said.

When Rodriguez came off the disabled list on May 8, Girardi consistently stressed he would ease his star third baseman back into the lineup, perhaps using him as a designated hitter or giving him a full day off along the way.

That has not been the case. Rodriguez has played every single game since being activated from the DL and has only been the DH three times. He played nine straight games at third immediately after rejoining the Yankees in a span of 10 days.

When pressed about the possibility of giving Rodriguez a day off, Girardi pointed to the Yankees' scheduled off-day last Monday, and another one coming up this Monday.

"I'll continue to talk to him and see," Girardi said. "Right now, I don't have any plans because we're in a stretch of six games and we have a day off on Monday. But if he feels he needs one, I won't hesitate to give him one."

Rodriguez did not indicate that he wants or needs to rest, saying he felt strong on Wednesday and was happy with the way he swung, despite his 0-for-3 night. Even though he is not hitting well now, Rodriguez said this is not unexpected, considering he did not have a Spring Training and he had surgery just two months ago.

Recovering from this injury is a process that is not fully complete, but Rodriguez said he's constantly getting stronger and stressed he will continue to hit better as the season progresses.

"It's going to take a minute," Rodriguez said. "I have to continue to be patient and not beat myself up. I'm doing all the work I can, and I'm going to be OK."

Jared Diamond is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.