Rays-Yankees Preview

AP - Sports

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.

Jeremy Hellickson (9-3, 4.62) was scheduled to pitch that contest and will be on the hill against the Yankees instead, and Friday's scheduled starter Chris Archer will be pushed to Saturday.

"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.

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