NEW YORK Alex Rodriguez will start the New York Yankees' biggest game of the year on the bench.
After being pinch hit for in Games 3 and 4 against the Baltimore Orioles, the $275 million third baseman was removed from the starting lineup for Game 5 on Friday.
"I'm not happy and obviously disappointed," Rodriguez said. "Want to be in there in the worst way."
Eric Chavez was set to start at third base, while Game 3 star Raul Ibanez will be the designated hitter in the winner-take-all series finale.
"It is difficult. He has meant a lot to the organization, the game of baseball over the years," manager Joe Girardi said. "And he has been a very productive hitter. But he struggled against right-handers in the series, and Chavy has been good against right-handers all year long."
The 37-year-old Rodriguez is 2 for 16 (.125) with no RBIs in the series, going hitless in 12 at-bats against right-handed pitchers with nine strikeouts. He was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in the opener against Jason Hammel, Baltimore's Game 5 starter.
Chavez hit .298 against righties during the regular season but is 0 for 4 against them in the playoffs.
Girardi contacted Rodriguez at about 1 p.m., before the 14-time All-Star arrived at Yankee Stadium, and informed him of the decision. Rodriguez took batting practice with the regular starters, not the reserves.
"It's never about Joe," Rodriguez said. "I always have to look in the mirror and do what I can do to do the best I can."
Since helping New York win the 2009 World Series, Rodriguez is 10 for 66 (.152) with no homers and six RBIs in postseason play. He hasn't homered in 84 at-bats since Sept. 14.
With the Yankees trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning of Game 3, Girardi sent up Ibanez to bat for A-Rod, and Ibanez hit a tying home run. Ibanez homered again in the 12th to give New York a 3-2 win.
Baltimore led 2-1 in the 13th inning in Game 4 when Chavez batted for Rodriguez and lined to third for the final out.
Is getting benched worse than getting pinch hit for?
"I'm not going to get into that," Rodriguez said. "I'm part of this team, and I'm ready to roll, and I'll be ready."
With the Yankees owing Rodriguez $114 million over the next five seasons, managing his decline could become a central issue for the team.
"I ain't worried about years ahead. Just let me worry about today," Girardi said. "The best relationships, the strongest relationships, are always relationships that go through some struggles. Relationships just aren't perfect. I mean, you put a husband and wife together where the relationship was just perfect without any struggles, and you're probably not living on this planet. So relationships go through that.
"So, I mean if things have to be, you know, built back up, we can do that. I have had to do that before. So I don't worry about that."
Fifth on the career list with 647 home runs 115 behind Barry Bonds' record Rodriguez has been slowed by five trips to the disabled list in five seasons: for a strained quadriceps (2008), hip surgery (2009), a strained calf (2010), knee surgery (2011) and a broken hand, sustained July 24 when hit by a pitch from Seattle's Felix Hernandez.
Before the start of spring training in 2009, he admitting using performance-enhancing drugs while he was with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03.
As for the rest of the Yankees' lineup, Derek Jeter was back at shortstop after being moved to DH for a game because of a sore left foot. Jeter led off, followed by left fielder Ichiro Suzuki, second baseman Robinson Cano, first baseman Mark Teixeira, Ibanez, right fielder Nick Swisher, center fielder Curtis Granderson, catcher Russell Martin and Chavez.
Yankees ace CC Sabathia was on the mound. He led the Yankees to a 7-2 win in the opener.
Girardi decided against benching Granderson, who is 1 for 16 (.063) with nine strikeouts in the series. He did not want to start Brett Gardner, who has been limited to three at-bats since mid-April because of an elbow injury that required surgery.
"If Grandy stays in his zone, he will be fine," Girardi said. "That's the big thing he has to concentrate on."
If the Yankees do win, they'll face the Tigers, who have no left-handed starters, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler notes.
"In fact," Knobler writes, "all four Tiger starters in the ALCS figure to be hard-throwing right-handers, the exact type of pitcher Rodriguez has struggled the most against."