- Associated Press - Saturday, August 21, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Alex Rodriguez was out of the New York Yankees‘ starting lineup with a lingering calf injury Saturday, and manager Joe Girardi believes his star third baseman could miss several games as the pennant race heats up.

Rodriguez returned to the lineup for Friday night’s series opener against the Seattle Mariners after missing three games with a left calf strain. Serving as the designated hitter, Rodriguez grounded to third base leading off the second inning and felt a pull in the calf.

He watched the rest of the game from dugout, chewing on sunflower seeds.

“I didn’t think we weren’t being cautious before, but we’ll continue to be cautious, and make sure guys are ready when they go in there,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you are going to think guys are ready and they’re not, because it’s hard to re-create the intensity of a game.”

Girardi is hoping that Rodriguez can avoid a trip to the disabled list, but added that the slugger will miss the rest of the weekend series against Seattle and probably won’t play during a three-game trip to Toronto beginning Monday.

Rodriguez has a hard time with the artificial turf at the Rogers Centre anyway, and the Yankees have a day off Thursday before finishing their road trip with three games at Chicago.

“We might get him as a DH one day or something, but we’re just going to have to continue to see how he feels,” Girardi said. “We have a built-in day off in five days, so I mean, you look at that as well. You know, I listen to my doctors and I listen to the training staff and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

A-Rod has struggled much of the season, at least by his standards, hitting just .265 with 21 home runs. But many of his hits have come with runners in scoring position or other clutch situations, and he leads the team with 97 RBIs in only 112 games.

“I want to be out there,” he said Friday night. “I thought I was beginning to get into a groove. It’s obviously very frustrating.”

Eduardo Nunez was slated for his first career start Saturday, moving over to third base after spending most of his minor league career at shortstop.

He was called up earlier in the week from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when Lance Berkman went on the DL and appeared in two games as a late substitution. The 23-year-old Nunez is considered one of the Yankees‘ better fielding prospects, though he’s hitting just .289 at Triple-A.

Still, the loss of offensive production at third base is sobering for the Yankees, who began the day one game up on the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. Rodriguez has hit 604 homers and driven in 1,803 runs during his 17-year career, while backups Ramiro Pena and Nunez have combined to hit one homer with 25 RBIs in 133 career games.

“We like his hands, love his arm, his range, he can run. He finds a way to put the bat on the ball,” Girardi said of Nunez. “We feel he can become an exciting player. We believe this kid is gifted athletically and could be a real plus for us.”



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