Everybody loves Alex -- in the minors

VIERA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez's Tampa teammates love him.

"It's been exciting," said catcher Tyson Blaser, "and not just because it brings more fans to the games, but also for the vast knowledge he brings to us. Alex has been great about talking to us before BP and during the games. He doesn't have to do that. But he's been a great guy to us, trying to teach us some things. He's talked to us about consistency, about routine, about doing the same things every day. For us, for me, it was pretty cool to have him sit down and talk to us about those things."

Rodriguez singled out third baseman Peter O'Brien for praise after Saturday night's game, predicting the Tampa slugger will go on to have a solid MLB career.

News of those words reached O'Brien on Sunday.

"Whenever you have a guy like that, one of the greatest guys to ever play the game, say something like that about you, it's really nice," he said. "It definitely gives you a little more confidence. It makes me want to keep working hard and hopefully one day I can be half the player he is."

For Chad Pierce, who pitched Sunday's game for the Brevard County Manatees and almost beaned Rodriguez on a 2-2 pitch that got away, it was a moment he wished hadn't happened.

"He was my favorite player growing up," said Pierce, who is from Fond du lac, Wisc. A-Rod had played at nearby Appleton when he was in the Seattle Mariners' organization. "Being able to pitch against him was special. The biggest thing with me is that sometimes I try to do too much. And that was especially the case with him in the box. I dragged my arm a little bit and the ball got away from me."

Pierce was relieved to see that the next time Rodriguez came to the plate, he shared a smile with Manatees catcher Cameron Garfield.

"Hey," Garfield jokingly told Rodriguez in that second plate appearance. "I'll tell our pitcher not to throw at you anymore."

Garfield said A-Rod chuckled and replied, "My reflexes aren't there yet. I haven't been in the box in nine months."

"When I saw them smile back and forth, that made me feel good," Pierce said. "Like I said, he was my favorite player growing up. But beyond that, you don't want to be the guy known for hitting Alex Rodriguez in the head in a minor league game."