C.J. Nitkowski: Idea Of A-Rod Pinch-Hitting Scares Me

Alex Rodriguez played his final game as a New York Yankee last Friday, going 1-for-4 with an RBI double in a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay. Yes, A-Rod had quite the sendoff at Yankee Stadium, with the home faithful cheering him heartily – even though the organization, it seems, wasn’t, at least not in recent weeks.

“The reaction was great,” MLB analyst and Eye on Baseball host C.J. Nitkowski told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think sometimes there is a disconnect between the media and how fans really feel. You saw those headlines in New York papers and what they were saying about Alex Rodriguez when that news came down. At the end of the day, you got to remember most baseball fans are regular people and they get it. They understand mistakes. They’ve made some just like everybody else, and they’re willing to forgive, especially if you’ve done something pretty special for your organization in the past – and Alex Rodriguez has.”

Rodriguez won a pair of MVPs in New York and led the franchise to a World Series title in 2009.

“It is something that is not lost or forgotten by those fans,” Nitkowski said. “You cannot deny how the fans felt in this situation, and they really did enjoy Friday night. It was cool to see.”

Rodriguez, however, may not be finished just yet. The Marlins, who rank 21st in the majors in runs and 29th in homers, are reportedly interested in signing Rodriguez and playing him at first base.

At 41, Rodriguez is better-suited as a DH. Can be actually play in the field at this point in his career?

“It’s going to be tough,” Nitkowski said. “Alex Rodriguez did not look all that comfortable the times that we have seen him play first base. I know it’s been very minimal, (but) he didn’t look comfortable at all. You’re going to get probably, I would assume, kind of below average defense.”

Nitkowski doesn’t anticipate Rodriguez pulling a Hanley Ramirez, either. Ramirez struggled in left-field for Boston but has made the transition to first base look easy.

“I don’t think it’s going to be that (for Rodriguez),” Nitkowski said. “You still have a 41-year-old guy here. There’s a lot of age, a lot of miles on the body. Based on the little bit that we’ve seen from him, I wouldn’t be too excited about it.”

Rodriguez, though, would be signing with the Marlins – or any team – first and foremost to hit homers. He has 696 for his career and is just four shy of the mythical 700. If he struggles in the field, he could at least come off the bench as a pinch-hitter, but even that isn’t a fool-proof plan. After all, Rodriguez is hitting just .200 with nine homers and a .247 OBP this season.

“The idea of him pinch-hitting also scares me a little bit,” Nitkowski said. “He hasn’t been playing much and you saw how the last couple of weeks went for him in New York. Pinch-hitting is one of the most difficult things to do in baseball anyway. Staying sharp even though you’re not playing every day is also very difficult, so a lot of things are kind of working against Alex. But at the same time, if you have a need, it’s sort of difficult to address that need, and with (Giancarlo) Stanton going down now as well, they have some serious offensive concerns in Miami.”

What a story it would be, though, if Rodriguez could somehow help Miami to the playoffs. The Marlins (61-56) trail the Cardinals (62-56) by just a half game for the second Wild Card spot in the National League.

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