Those who expected Alex Rodriguez to be in the lineup Friday night, including Rodriguez himself, will have to wait a bit longer - and possibly much, much longer.
The New York Yankees have others on the way ready to help their struggling offense, though.
With Alfonso Soriano back on the team and Derek Jeter set to come off the disabled list shortly, New York sends CC Sabathia to the mound hoping to slow the surging Tampa Bay Rays in the series opener at Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez and the fourth-place Yankees (54-48) have squabbled over an MRI that apparently revealed a Grade 1 quad strain that will keep him from making his season debut until at least August, according to general manager Brian Cashman.
The third baseman, who lobbied to be in the lineup Friday, sought another opinion without the team's permission and reportedly is now on the verge of facing unspecified discipline from the club.
That doesn't even factor in the potential hefty penalty Rodriguez could face due to the Biogenesis scandal."I think the Yanks and I crossed signals," Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday. "I'm excited and ready to play and help this team win a championship. I feel great and I'm ready and want to be in the lineup Friday night. Enough doctors, let's play."
Jeter hopes to do just that Saturday, when he's eligible to come off the disabled list after nursing a quad strain of his own."He'll run again (Friday), he'll see a doctor and then we'll go from there," manager Joe Girardi said.
Soriano, who played for the Yankees from 1999-2003, is batting cleanup and playing left field Friday after being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs .
Soriano has eight home runs in July - one more than the entire Yankees team - and would be counted upon to help an offense that scored only eight runs during a four-game series split with Texas.
Solid pitching from Hiroki Kuroda helped the Yankees earn a 2-0 win over the Rangers on Thursday, and they'll be looking for Sabathia (9-8, 4.37 ERA) to bounce back from his struggles Friday.
The Yankees have lost four of Sabathia's last five starts, and he's been especially roughed up in the last two. He allowed eight runs - though only three were earned - in four innings of a 10-4 loss to Minnesota on July 14 before giving up seven runs in five frames of New York's 8-7, 11-inning loss at Boston on Sunday.
Sabathia has allowed a homer in six straight outings. He's given up 23 home runs, already the most he's allowed in a season in his 13-year career.
"To see him struggle a little bit is kind of strange," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's not something that we're used to seeing."
The left-hander's struggles against Tampa Bay are rather common, though. Sabathia is 1-2 with a 7.29 ERA in three starts versus the Rays this season, giving up five runs in seven innings June 22 before the Yankees pulled out a 7-5 victory.
Tampa Bay (60-42), though, has won 22 of 27 since that defeat and is one-half game behind Boston for the AL East lead. Its series finale with the Red Sox was rained out Thursday and will be made up Monday.
"Nice not to burn a start," Hellickson said. "It was nice to find out (the game was postponed) early."
Hellickson is 5-0 with a 2.19 ERA over his last six starts after giving up two runs in five innings of Saturday's 4-3 win at Toronto. The right-hander, 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in five career starts versus New York, last faced the Yankees when he allowed three hits in 8 2-3 innings of a 3-0 win April 8, 2012.
These teams have split 10 meetings this season.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|June 28, 2013||Evan Longoria||Day-to-Day||Plantar fasciitis, left foot|
|June 16, 2013||Alex Cobb||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 05, 2013||Kelly Johnson||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 08, 2013||Brandon Gomes||15-Day DL||Strained right lat|
|New York Yankees|
|July 23, 2013||Luis Cruz||15-Day DL||Sprained right knee|
|July 20, 2013||Zoilo Almonte||15-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|July 19, 2013||Zoilo Almonte||Day-to-Day||Left game - left ankle sprain|
|July 16, 2013||Robinson Cano||Day-to-Day||Left game - leg|
|July 12, 2013||Derek Jeter||Day-to-Day||Strained right quad|
|July 12, 2013||Derek Jeter||15-Day DL||Strained right quad|
NEW YORK (AP) -- Up by nine runs in the late innings, the Tampa Bay Rays wound up needing their closer to finish off this latest victory.
"It's not always an oil painting," manager Joe Maddon observed.
Masterpiece or not, here's a portrait of a winning team: From last place a month ago to now leading the tough AL East.
Jeremy Hellickson retired Yankees newcomer Alfonso Soriano with the bases loaded to preserve an early lead and the streaking Rays tagged CC Sabathia once again, beating New York 10-6 Friday night.
The Rays have won 20 of 23 and took sole possession of the division lead for the first time since June 10, 2012. Recently seven games behind, Tampa Bay moved a half-game ahead of Boston.
"Of course there's gratification in it, but there's no complacency," Maddon said. "It's always good to validate what you're doing."
Ben Zobrist , Yunel Escobar and Evan Longoria doubled during a six-run burst in the second inning, and James Loney later homered and drove in four runs as the Rays got way ahead in the seventh.
"We were playing such a great game tonight. Not a good game, a great game," Maddon said. "Unfortunately, we let them up a little."
"You don't want an under-duress moment after you're up 10-1 and have to sweat one out," he said. "That's not cool."
Well supported all season, Hellickson (10-3) won his sixth straight decision. Fernando Rodney , the Rays' fourth pitcher in a three-run ninth, got the last out for his 25th save.
"It's not hard to win games when I'm getting eight, nine, 10 runs a game," Hellickson said.
Trying to add power, the Yankees acquired Soriano from the Chicago Cubs before the game, trading a minor league pitcher to get the seven-time All-Star and lots of cash to cover much of his contract.
Soriano got his chance to make a sudden impact, batting with the bases loaded, two outs in the third and the Yankees trailing 6-1. With Tampa Bay's infield overshifted to the left side, he ran the count full before lofting a routine fly to right that ended the inning.
The 37-year-old Soriano, who began his career with the Yankees in 1999 and drew a big ovation in his return, went 0 for 5, scored once and drove in a run. He got an RBI with a bases-loaded forceout in the ninth.
"It's a good day for me today to have a chance to put on the uniform again," he said.
"I hope we have a better chance tomorrow," he said. "It's a tough day tonight."
Soriano did more on defense, catching a fly to start the game, making a throw that helped nail a runner and running down a foul ball.
Hellickson gave up one run and four hits in six innings, retiring his last nine batters and sending the Yankees to their seventh loss in 10 games. He also flashed a fast glove, snaring Ichiro Suzuki 's liner right in front of his face.
Sabathia (9-9) was booed early and was hit hard for the third straight start, allowing 22 runs over 14 innings in that span. He got a true Bronx cheer when he struck out Loney while escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the third.
Sabathia joined Chien-Ming Wang as the only Yankees pitchers since 1935 to allow at least seven runs in three straight starts.
"I feel like throughout my career I've been able to kind of avoid and pitch out of the big innings. Here lately I haven't been able to make a pitch," he said.
"We're right in the middle of this thing and if I can help us out, I feel like we would be doing a lot better. But getting no help from me is making it tough," he said.
The Rays have been particularly prickly for Sabathia. He is just 4-11 in 23 starts against them, including four this season, since joining the Yankees.
A two-out walk to eighth-place hitter Jose Lobaton set up Sam Fuld 's RBI single in the second and Desmond Jennings followed with a bunt single that catcher Austin Romine threw away for another run. Longoria delivered a two-run double and scored on Wil Myers ' single.
Loney had an RBI single in the fifth and hit a three-run homer in the seventh off Adam Warren .
NOTES: Rays LHP David Price will start Monday's makeup game at Boston. He won Wednesday night at Fenway Park, pitching a five-hitter. ... Rays rookie RHP Chris Archer (5-3, 2.76) starts Saturday vs. RHP Ivan Nova (4-3, 3.66). ... Rays RHP Alex Cobb has a bullpen session Saturday in Port Charlotte, Fla. Hit in the head by a line drive last month, he threw two pitches in his first rehab start before being pulled because of a blister. ... Myers had his seventh straight multihit game, a team rookie record.