VIERA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez was the DH Sunday night at Space Coast Stadium in his fourth rehabilitation game, his second with the Class A Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League. A-Rod had played two games Tuesday and Wednesday for the Charleston RiverDogs, a lower Class A team in South Carolina, and played third base in both those games.
What it means: It’s another incremental step toward his return to the major leagues. Rodriguez consistently has said he needs to get at-bats against live pitching in real-game situations, and he added three more Sunday, finishing 0-for-3, to bring his total to 10 at-bats in Class A ball. In those 10 at-bats, he has one single, one hit-by-pitch, one strikeout, one line out, one pop out and five groundouts, with two of them resulting in a double play. All totaled, he is 1-for-9 with a HBP.
On deck: Rodriguez said he would not be playing in Monday’s Tampa Yankees road game against Brevard County but should play again in Tampa in Tuesday’s home game against the Dunedin Blue Jays.
All hit, no field: A day after saying that his defense was several weeks behind his offense, Rodriguez emphasized that being the DH in Sunday’s game was “part of the program” and not a step backward.
“The program is the program,” he said. “We set that four, five days back. We’re going to stick with the program no matter what. It’s part of the progression. But I did get great work before the game at third.”
A-Rod also indicated that the rehab process “is going to get slower. There’s no frustration here. Obviously, we want to get back to New York as soon as possible. But there is a process. You’ve got to be realistic.”
He likened it to spring training.
“I said in Charleston that it felt like March 1. Now it feels like March 5.”
Quick, duck! In his first at-bat in the first inning, A-Rod worked a 2-2 count before Manatees pitcher Chad Pierce threw a breaking ball that didn’t break. Instead, it went straight for Rodriguez’s head. A-Rod ducked out of the way at the last moment, backpedaling out of the batter’s box as the ball skittered to the backstop. On the next pitch, he hit a line drive that shortstop Yadiel Rivera lunged and snagged before it had a chance to bounce into center field.
“My reaction is not very quick,” A-Rod said about the pitch at his head. “It has been nine months.”
When it was suggested that some of his new teammates might be inclined to start a bench-clearing brawl, given that he was hit by a Manatees pitcher Saturday night, Rodriguez laughed and said, “I wouldn’t want to get in the middle of that.”
I.T. band update: After saying Saturday night that the pitch that struck him didn’t hit his surgically repaired left hip, but rather on his I.T. band, A-Rod hiked up his gym shorts and revealed to a small group of media members a bruise on his upper leg, and said, “I’ll show you what. There’s your I.T. band. I told you, I.T. bands are no joke.” When asked if a photo of the bruise could be taken and tweeted, A-Rod smiled and politely said, “No.”
A strike? Really: In A-Rod's second at-bat, the first pitch looked clearly outside. Home-plate umpire Ryan Clark called it a strike. The second pitch, closer to the strike zone, was again a called strike. It put A-Rod in a defensive stance, down 0-2 in the count. He checked his swing and fouled off a low pitch before hitting a towering pop up that first baseman Nick Ramirez caught in foul territory.
An easy DP: In his final at-bat -- with all three coming against pitcher Chad Pierce -- Rodriguez bounced an 0-1 pitch into a 5-4-3 double play. He did not run full speed toward first base.
Autographs, anyone? Although he was booed loudly during each of his at-bats at Space Coast Stadium, Rodriguez went down the third-base line and signed dozens of autographs after he was done playing. It was a big draw for the fans, particularly children, who rushed to the area when they saw him signing. Only 1,500 people showed for Sunday’s game, down from 3,148 who attended Saturday night.