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A-Rod will return Sunday says Girardi

Barring any unforeseen setbacks, Alex Rodriguez will play his first regular season game in front of his hometown Sunday as planned.

Manager Joe Girardi addressed A-Rod's absence from the lineup for the first two games of the series again Saturday and reiterated it was fatigue the reason he was benched.

"I think he understood and knew this is what was best for him," Girardi said. ‘‘Everything is always [blown up] when it comes Alex. We talked to him yesterday about how he has to tell us if he's fatigued. If he's not going to tell us he is, than I'll make the decision for him."

Teammate Johnny Damon said it was probably a good thing Rodriguez missed the first two games of the series against the Marlins. "Alex has been struggling. He's not at full strength," Damon said. "This is his spring training. One day doesn't always do it. Maybe he can even take Sunday off and then we're off on Monday and he can get four days off. It depends on how we're playing. Joe Girardi is a great baseball man. He understands slumps. In the long run this will be better for our team."

WEST HAS BEEN HURTING: Sean West had a tough outing Friday night against the Yankees, giving up a career- high 10 hits and five earned runs in the shorting outing of his career (four innings).

But West's second career loss was not nearly as difficult for him to deal with than his previous start against the Blue Jays on June 10th. That day, a funeral was taking place for his 70-year old grandmother, Mimi, back home in Louisiana.

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said he asked West if he wanted to skip the start and head home, but the 23-year old rookie refused, telling Gonzalez "my grandmother would have wanted me to pitch." West did and beat the Blue Jays, pitching 5-2/3 innings and giving up four earned runs to pick up his second win.

"He handled it great," Gonzalez said. "People talk about the Yankees and this kind of stuff. How much more difficult is to pitch and compete and win when something like that happens with your family?"

West said his grandmother had been immobilized for nearly six years after a stroke. "I don't want people to make a big deal about it," West said. "I know she's in a better place now."

SANCHES ROLLING: The Marlins have put together one of baseball's better bullpens this season with a collection of pitchers plucked from the recycling bin.

Right-hander Brian Sanches has quietly become another example since being called up from Triple A New Orleans on May 18. The 30-year old has made 13 appearances and given up just one earned run -- a home run to Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury earlier this week -- in 15 innings.

Before this season, Sanches had a career 6.12 ERA in 40 major league games.

Saturday, Gonzalez called Sanches ‘a tremendous find.'

"I'm just trying to stay aggressive in the strike zone, stay aggressive toward the hitters," said Sanches, who said a developed cutter has made a big difference for him.‘‘If I get beat, I get beat being aggressive. My past appearances us here I've got into trouble being too fine with pitches. I'm just not doing that anymore."

> Anibal Sanchez, on the disabled list for the second time this season with a shoulder sprain, received clearance from doctors Friday night to resume playing catch and did so Saturday.

But Gonzalez said it will be a long while before Sanchez pitches on the mound again. When asked if he thought Sanchez could return after the All-Star break, he declined to speculate saying only "it's going to be a long time."

"[The doctor] told me the same thing as last time 'You have to wait until you feel better and you have to do things little by little and have patience," Sanchez said. "I feel a little discomfort. But that's going to go away. Bottomline, I just want to get it right so when I do come back, I don't have to deal with it anymore."