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07/02/09 12:50 AM ET

Choosing when to rest A-Rod a puzzle

New York (45-32) vs. Seattle (39-38), 7:05 p.m. ET

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows he eventually needs to rest Alex Rodriguez. He has seen firsthand what happens when Rodriguez plays too often while recovering from right hip surgery -- he slumps at the plate and loses some mobility at third base.

But Girardi has also come to realize exactly what a few days off can do for Rodriguez. Since Girardi sat Rodriguez for back-to-back games against the Marlins in Miami, the slugging third baseman has come alive both at the plate and in the field. Rodriguez launched his second home run in as many days -- and his fourth in six games -- on Wednesday night, once again giving the Yankees a lead in the late innings. On Wednesday, the lead held, setting up a 4-2 win over the Mariners.

It begs a difficult question for any manager -- when is the right time to bench a player when he's hitting so well? Though Girardi would rather not have to face it, Rodriguez will eventually have to sit. Until then, the Yankees just hope he keeps hitting.

"It's not easy, I can tell you that, but it is important," Girardi said of finding time to sit Rodriguez. "It is hard not having his bat in the lineup, but we have enough capable hitters that we should be able to pick him up."

In his past seven games, Rodriguez is 10-for-23 (.435) with four home runs and 13 RBIs. This surge comes after a dreadful three-week skid in which he hit just .176 with two homers and nine RBIs, prompting Girardi to give his star third baseman two days off.

The plan then was to rest Rodriguez one game each week until the All-Star break. Those specific plans appear to have been abandoned, but Girardi has stressed throughout this week that he'll make sure to give Rodriguez the time he needs, hoping to avoid another long slump.

There is no doubt the rest has benefited Rodriguez. As he struggled at the plate, Rodriguez was visibly having trouble with his surgically repaired hip. He did not run well and had increasingly limited mobility at third. Immediately after his days off, Rodriguez seemed as lively and strong as he had all season thus far.

"There is no question I feel more energetic," Rodriguez said. "The swing only comes if you have fuel in the tank, and I feel right now my body is reacting really well."

Rodriguez was given a bit of a break on Wednesday, as Girardi slotted him into the lineup as the designated hitter. Girardi said that although being the DH isn't the same as receiving a full day off, it would benefit Rodriguez to avoid playing defense for nine innings.

Rodriguez responded well, going 2-for-4 with a mammoth homer off Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn that proved to be the game-winner. Rodriguez hit an 0-2 changeup well over the center-field fence into Monument Park. Girardi said he was impressed by how much power Rodriguez was able to generate on a blast that broke a 2-2 tie.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez homered off Seattle reliever Chris Jakubauskas, pulling an inside fastball into the left-field bleachers. Afterward, he said it was the first time he turned on a pitch so well since before the hip injury.

Now, Girardi has to decide when to next give Rodriguez a full day off. The manager has refused to outline a precise plan for when the time off will come, but he has maintained it's likely one will come next week, when the Yankees are in Minnesota, so Rodriguez does not have to play three straight days on artificial turf.

The important thing for the Yankees is that Rodriguez feels like he's getting healthier, and that he feels better with each day. If all goes well, Rodriguez hopes that by the end of the season, the story will be less about his hip and more about how he is performing.

"I am feeling better, but if in the middle of August I go 2-for-18, that doesn't mean my hip is at fault," Rodriguez said. "It's that I stunk for those two weeks."

Pitching matchup
NYY: LHP CC Sabathia (7-4, 3.55 ERA)
If there were any lingering doubts about CC Sabathia's health, he quickly put those to rest in his most recent start, last Friday. Sabathia worked seven dominating innings against the Mets, allowing just one run while picking up his seventh win of the season. He surrendered three hits in the fifth inning, but allowed no other baserunners. This comes after Sabathia was pulled from a game in the second inning in Florida with left biceps tendinitis.

SEA: LHP Jason Vargas (3-3, 3.79 ERA)
The long ball proved troublesome for Vargas in his most recent start, when he surrendered two in one game for the first time this season. A three-run jack to a left-handed batter was most costly; Vargas has surrendered almost as many home runs to lefties (four) as he has to right-handers (five) in roughly one-third as many at-bats. This will be Vargas' first career appearance against the Yankees.

Injured catcher Jose Molina will play a rehab game on Thursday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in Pawtucket, R.I. ... Wednesday's game was the Yankees' shortest of the season, clocking in at 2:17. ... Closer Mariano Rivera has now recorded at least 20 saves in 13 straight seasons. ... Reliever Phil Coke has allowed just one earned run in his past 15 1/3 innings.

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Up next
• Friday: Yankees (A.J. Burnett, 6-4, 3.93) vs. Blue Jays (Brian Tallet, 5-5, 4.47), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Yankees (Chien-Ming Wang, 1-6, 10.06) vs. Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 10-2, 2.56), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Joba Chamberlain, 4-2, 3.89) vs. Blue Jays (Scott Richmond, 6-5, 3.69), 1:05 p.m. ET

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