Rounding Third: A-Rod clears another hurdle

Philadelphia, PA ( – At some point Alex Rodriguez will be
able to just focus on playing some baseball.

He’s met the media, he’s greeted his teammates, and he’s apologized to fans.

Now it’s time to see how much is left in the tank of the disgraced soon-to-be
40- year-old former three-time AL MVP, who is likely playing without the
benefit of performance enhancing drugs.

And if you believe some people he may be doing that for the first time in his

Rodriguez passed another hurdle on Wednesday, as he faced live pitching in an
actual spring training game. Results were as to be expected for someone who
hasn’t faced a live pitcher since going hitless in three at-bats versus the
Tampa Bay Rays back on Sept. 25, 2013.

“I felt like I was swinging underwater,” Rodriguez said. “I was like, man,
it’s been a long time.”

To A-Rod’s credit, he was at least better against the Philadelphia Phillies
than he was against “Iron Mike”, the team’s pitching machine that held him
hitless in an instrasquad game Tuesday.

Batting second and serving as the designated hitter for the Yankees in
Wednesday’s 3-1 loss, Rodriguez slapped an 0-2, 89 mph fastball from Phillies
right-hander Kevin Slowey into shallow left field for a clean single.

“I was happy I just made contact, and I was pleasantly surprised it was a base
hit,” Rodriguez said of his first plate appearance of the spring. “I was a
little nervous. I told (plate umpire Marty Foster) to take it easy on the old
man — it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the box.”

Rodriguez then grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the third and drew a
walk to load the bases in the sixth before being taken out for a pinch runner.

“Everything feels a little odd right now,” Rodriguez said. “I felt like I was
swinging underwater. I was like, man, it’s been a long time.”

The reaction from the crowd for Rodriguez was split, but if you had to place
money on one or the other, there were definitely more cheers. Of course, this
game was played in the friendly confines of George M. Steinbrenner Field.

It’ll certainly be a different story once the Yankees hit the road in the
regular season.

“I thought the response was great,” Rodriguez said. “Once you’ve hit rock
bottom, anytime you hear a few cheers these days, it’s a pleasant surprise. It
makes it better.”

The next obstacle for Rodriguez will be to appear in a game in the field at
either his customary third base or across the diamond at first where he has
been working this spring.

“Whatever Joe wants, I’ll do,” Rodriguez said. “I’m having fun. This is as
much fun as I’ve had in a long time in spring training. I’m just feeling
really good that I get to play the game that I love.”

Aside from that silly handwritten apology to the fans, Rodriguez has been
drama free since arriving at camp. Nobody said it was going be easy for him,
though. Whether it’s dealing with the media, regaining the trust of the fans,
or more importantly just trying to play baseball again.

Let’s be honest. Rodriguez will be 40 on July 27. He has had two hip
surgeries and missed a full season. Expectations shouldn’t be that high. But
when you are the highest paid player in the history of the game, and you are
Alex Rodriguez, everything is magnified.

“It’s too early to get a gauge on where I am; it was nice to put the ball in
play a few times,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to take time. Two or three
weeks from now I think I’ll have a better idea. Right now it’s all about just
getting into playing shape.”