TAMPA — Alex Rodriguez will skip the New York Yankees’ exhibition opener against Philadelphia in Clearwater and is slated to make his spring training debut at Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday.
A-Rod is back from a season-long suspension for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract,
Yankees manager Joe Girardi intends to give Rodriguez two or three at-bats as a designated hitter in New York’s first home exhibition game this year.
“I know it’s a tall order,” Girardi said Monday. “He’s 39 1/2 years old, two hip surgeries. But I don’t ever count anybody out. We have to see where he is in about four weeks and how he’s doing. That’s the important thing.”
Rodriguez went 0 for 2 as a DH in an intrasquad game Monday. Hitting off a pitching machine, he grounded to third on the second pitch and flied out to short right on the first pitch. The three-time AL MVP has not played a full season since 2007 because of the suspension, operations on both hips and other injuries. He did not speak with reporters after the intrasquad game and is not on the travel roster for Tuesday’s game across Tampa Bay.
“I think his work, his approach is the same as it used to be,” Girardi said. “He wants to get his work in. That’s what I’ve seen him doing.”
Monday’s game was played before about 100 fans in mostly empty Steinbrenner Field. Rodriguez spent most the game in a chair next to the first-base dugout wearing a helmet and occasionally swinging a bat as he awaited his next plate appearance. He received cheers walking to the plate from the small gathering.
“I think you’ll look at the progress he’s making from day to day and week to week,” Girardi said. “How his at-bats look day 10 opposed to day one.”
Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman say Chase Headley will be their starting third baseman and Rodriguez will compete for at-bats at designated hitter. Rodriguez has been working out at third and first base, and could see limited time at both corner infield spots.
“I think he has come into camp and tried just to fit in, and be one of the guys, which is fairly normal for him,” Girardi said. “Guys are comfortable being around him. Makes people laugh. Kind of what he does.”
Adam Warren is to start for the Yankees on Tuesday. Position players making the trip to Clearwater include outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Chris Young.
NOTES: CC Sabathia threw 42 pitches in his fourth bullpen session and is to pitch batting practice later this week. The left-hander was hobbled by a degenerative cartilage problem in his right knee last season that resulted in season-ending surgery in July. … OF Carlos Beltran (elbow surgery) will play for the first time Friday. “We feel pretty good about where he’s at,” Girardi said. “Just going a little slower with him.” … Spring training instructor Reggie Jackson arrived at camp. … Retired naval officer and teacher Richard Albero started his walk from home plate at Steinbrenner Field to home plate at Yankee Stadium — a trip of over 1,200 miles — in support of the Wounded Warrior Project.
MARK DIDTLER, Associated Press