TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez got a lesson Saturday on why
third base is called the hot corner. On Sunday, he'll see up close
why the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees is so heated.
Rodriguez went 3-for-3 with a triple in New York's 14-5
spring-training win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, his
first hits since the Yankees acquired him from Texas last month.
While his production at the plate is a given, it's his move to
third base that's under scrutiny.
He made a nice play to come in on Greg Myers' bouncer in the
second, but he couldn't quite get a glove on Jorge Posada's pickoff
throw on the foul side of bag later in the inning, and the ball
skipped into left for a run-scoring error on the catcher.
Then, in the fourth, he dived for Vernon Wells' bouncer down the
line. While the ball was playable, it went over Rodriguez's glove
and rolled into left for a leadoff double. His backside was covered
with dirt for the rest of the day, a battle scar, so to speak.
"The ground ball in was a nice play. I should have had the one
in the hole," Rodriguez said.
A two-time Gold Glove shortstop, Rodriguez is still getting used
to the third base position and the terminology -- he's not used to
describing balls to his right as being near the foul line, instead
of the hole.
Each morning, Rodriguez has arrived at Legends Field between
6:45 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. to work with instructors such as former
Gold Glove third baseman Graig Nettles. Rodriguez knows the
expectations. As soon as Wells' ball got by him, the Yankees'
television broadcast cut to a great play Nettles once made.
Yankees manager Joe Torre was sitting next to Nettles in the
dugout when Rodriguez hit the dirt.
"The one thing we liked is that he reacted to it real well,"
Torre said. "There was no hesitation and then a dive, he dived for
it and he just didn't catch it. But his reaction was very good."
Rodriguez doesn't know how he'll react Sunday, when the Yankees
travel to Fort Myers for their first meeting with the Red Sox since
winning Game 7 of the AL championship series last October.
While it's only spring training, and it won't have the screaming
zanies who fill Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, players on both
teams expect it will be more than just another exhibition game.
"You ask and guys can't really describe it," Rodriguez said.
"You have to be in the middle of it. It's like a playoff game --
it's hard to really describe it unless you've been there --
obviously World Series, Boston Red Sox, the Mets, those are all
firsts that I'm going to really enjoy and look forward to."
Rodriguez says he's "guaranteed" to be booed in Boston, the
city he nearly got traded to in December, and in Seattle and Texas,
the cities of his previous teams.
"If Boston Red Sox fans start cheering me, there's something
wrong with what I'm doing," he said.
Texas had a tentative deal to send Rodriguez to Boston for Manny
Ramirez, but the trade collapsed when the players' association
blocked the restructuring proposed by the Red Sox, and Boston
refused the union's counteroffer.
"I think I did everything in my power to get to Boston, no
question," Rodriguez said. "I made all the concessions. It just
didn't work out. I'm sure the booing is not going to come from the
negotiations, it's going to be from the great rivalry.
"I'm at the right place. I love New York. And it couldn't have
worked out better. I never knew the Yankees had interest. When they
came to the forefront, I was very happy."
Jorge Posada was 3-for-3 with a three-run homer and six RBIs. He is 5-for-5 this spring with two homers. ... Javier
Vazquez, in his first game for the Yankees, allowed two runs -- one
earned -- and one hit in one inning and got the win. ... Loser Bruce
Chen was hit hard, allowing five runs and five hits in 1 1-3
innings. ... Jason Giambi, who hit a grand slam Friday, came up
with the bases loaded again. His bat shattered as he grounded to
first, and when Shawn Fagan's throw home went to the backstop, New
York scored a pair of unearned runs. Posada hit a wind-blown
three-run double later in the inning. ... RHP Orlando Hernandez
reached a preliminary agreement on a $500,000, one-year contract
with the Yankees. El Duque, who missed last season and is coming
off shoulder surgery, must pass a physical to finalize the deal.