The Washington Times - March 5, 2009, 01:41PM

ESPN Deportes reported Thursday that Alex Rodriguez will have surgery Monday to remove a cyst on his right hip and will miss at least 10 weeks, meaning the third baseman will be unable to be play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic and won’t join the Yankees until mid to late May at the earliest. The news comes as a huge blow to the Yankees, who opened the vault for free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira this offseason in hopes of reclaiming supremacy in the American League East.

That the Bronx Bombers will lose the services of a 12-time All-Star and two-time MVP for at least the first month and a half is bad enough; the fact that they don’t have any good options to fill in for him only makes things worse. Cody Ransom, who has hit .251 in 183 big league at bats spread over six seasons, is the most obvious in-house solution, but he’s appeared at third base in only seven of his 166 big league games. On the bright side, Ransom has hit 20 or more homers in each of the past three seasons in triple-A. The only other in-house option would be Angel Berroa, a .260 career hitter who has appeared at third base only once in the majors and five times in the minors. The Yankees don’t have any minor league third basemen who appear ready to help the big league club.

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There aren’t any free agent third basemen still looking for work, but veteran second baseman Mark Grudzielanek could be an option. The 14-year veteran is a career .290 hitter and though he hasn’t played third base in more than a decade, he did appear in 31 games at the hot corner for the 1995 Montreal Expos. Grudzielanek is by all accounts a true professional, and with a month of spring training left, he could probably get comfortable enough at third to do at least an adequate job while A-Rod recovers. Once A-Rod returns, Grudzielanek would represent an upgrade from Berroa or Ransom at the backup utility-infield spot. Another option for the Yankees could be free agent second baseman Ray Durham, though he’s never appeared at third base in the big leagues, or, of course, picking someone up in a trade.

A-Rod undoubtedly wanted to get on the field and produce in order to begin to put the steroid issues in the rear-view mirror, and will now have to sit and stew for at least the first month and a half of the season. The fact that his season debut won’t be coming at the same time as everyone else’s will only make it more of a circus. 2009 was going to be the most pressure-packed season of A-Rod’s career even before news of this injury, and now he’ll carry the additional weight of wanting to make up for lost time once he returns. It will be interesting to see whether the notoriously hypersensitive superstar can rise to the challenge.

Jay LeBlanc is an assistant news editor at The Washington Times. He can be reached at jleblanc@washingtontimes.com.