NEW YORK (AP) — Jorge Posada asked to be taken out of the New York Yankees’ lineup Saturday night after the slumping designated hitter was dropped to No. 9 in the batting order.
Posada, hitting .165 this season, was in the original lineup posted by manager Joe Girardi for the game against the Boston Red Sox. But general manager Brian Cashman said Posada went into Girardi’s office at 6 p.m. and requested that he be removed.
Posada’s wife tweeted that the five-time All-Star had back stiffness. But a person familiar with the discussion between Posada and the team told The Associated Press that he “refused” to play. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the situation was still not settled.
LISTEN: Posada explains his position
The person said the Yankees have been in contact with the commissioner’s office about possible recourse. The Yankees could fine Posada one day’s pay — that would be $71,978 on his $13.1 million salary. If a player declines to play two days in a row, he could be put on the restricted list.
About 40 minutes before gametime, the Yankees announced that Posada had been scratched from the lineup and replaced by Andruw Jones at DH, but the team initially provided no explanation.
With specualtion swirling, Cashman met with reporters in a workroom behind the press box during the third inning to give an update. In an unusual scene, the GM said Posada is not injured, but wouldn’t comment on whether he had been insubordinate.
During the game, Posada’s wife, Laura, tweeted that her husband “loves being a Yankee” more than anything.
“He’s trying his best to help his team win. Today, due to back stiffness he wasn’t able to do that,” she wrote.
Before batting practice, Posada insisted he was OK with hitting ninth. He said he put himself in this position and he understood Girardi’s decision.
Posada was on the Yankees bench during the game, wearing a cap and sweat shirt.
Slumping all season in his new role as DH, the 39-year-old Posada has six homers and 15 RBIs. His batting average is the lowest for any player currently in the majors with at least 100 at-bats, and he hasn’t homered since April 23.
With the Yankees struggling to get big hits lately, Girardi said it was time to make a lineup switch in an attempt to get some of his sluggers going. He moved scuffling Nick Swisher down to eighth in the order and put Posada in the No. 9 hole.
“It’s all right. Just move some people around, get a W or two and get rolling again,” Posada said, adding that Girardi informed him of the lineup decision earlier in the day.
It was Posada who gradually supplanted Girardi as New York’s primary catcher in the late 1990s. The Yankees say the last time Posada hit ninth was exactly 12 years ago, on May 14, 1999, against the Chicago White Sox.
“The only way I’m coming out of hitting ninth is just producing, and that’s the bottom line,” Posada said before BP. “I put myself in this spot. It’s not like I want to hit ninth and it’s not like I want to hit a hundred and whatever I’m hitting. Just a matter of really coming out of it.
“We’re going through a little funk right now and it’s a matter of really producing.”
A proud and respected veteran who has helped New York win five World Series titles, Posada does have four hits in his last 12 at-bats. But after getting ahead 3-0 in a key at-bat Friday night, he grounded out against hard-throwing Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard to strand the potential tying runs in scoring position.
More than three hours before Saturday’s game, Posada said he’s felt much better at the plate since a series at Detroit last week. But he said he understood the decision by Girardi, who moved up Russell Martin and Brett Gardner in the batting order.
“I don’t feel like I’m in a slump,” Posada said. “My average is not what it’s supposed to be, and I understand that. But I think my at-bats are a lot better and I feel a lot better at the plate.”
Posada isn’t the only aging Yankees star who has been under scrutiny this season. After getting off to a slow start of his own, good buddy Derek Jeter has found himself in an uncomfortable spotlight as the Yankees and their fans search for signs that his skills haven’t left him.
Posada has caught at least one game for New York in each of the past 16 seasons and is one of only six major league catchers to hit 20 homers eight times, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
He lost his job behind the plate, however, relegated to DH duty this season. The switch-hitter is 0 for 24 against left-handed pitchers, and Girardi wouldn’t commit to staying with Posada against southpaws.
“I’ll worry about that as we get to left-handed pitchers in the next few days,” the manager said.
And how long can he keep playing Posada if his struggles continue?
“Our hope is that he gets going and we don’t have to cross that bridge. So I mean, that’s my thought process. I don’t necessarily think that a guy’s not going to be able to do what he’s done over the course of his career,” Girardi said. “He’s struggled more right-handed than he has left-handed. His at-bats left-handed have been better. I just felt that it was time to make that change. You just keep playing it out and you look for guys to turn it around.”
Girardi said he had thought about the move for a couple of days but acknowledged it’s not easy to make this sort of change with a player of Posada’s stature and accomplishment.
“It is. I have a ton of respect for what Jorgie’s done over his career and the success that he’s had. No one wants to be bumped down or moved down in the order, I don’t care who you are. I don’t care if you’re a young guy who is struggling, you don’t want to be moved down. But with what Jorge has meant to this franchise and the success that he’s had, you know, it is a little more difficult,” Girardi said.