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Beltran, A-Rod blanked in Yankees loss

TAMPA, Fla. -- A 14-hour day of exhibition baseball that began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 10:30 p.m. produced little in the way of conclusive results. The Yankees won one game (4-1 over the Phillies in Clearwater in the afternoon), lost the other (3-1 to the Pirates at home at night), and saw 48 players in action.

But all eyes were really on just two: Carlos Beltran, who was making his first start of the spring, and Alex Rodriguez, because he's, well, A-Rod.

Neither showed much -- Beltran went 0-for-2, both strikeouts, with a walk and Rodriguez went 0-for-2 with one strikeout and a walk -- both proclaimed themselves satisfied with their nights, and, predictably enough, Joe Girardi proclaimed it too early to judge either player.

"It was good to see Carlos out there," Girardi said. "He looked OK. As I said, I'm not going to make too much of their at-bats. Both of them looked healthy, which is good. I think that's important and we'll continue to move on."

Beltran, playing in his first game since undergoing elbow surgery in the offseason, went down looking against Pirates starter Jeff Locke in the first inning. Three innings later, he swung and missed at three pitches from Arquimedes Caminero. But in the sixth, batting left-handed for the first time in the game, he drew a four-pitch walk from Adrian Sampson. Beltran also handled one chance in the outfield, retrieving Neil Walker's double to the right-field corner and hitting his cutoff man without any apparent discomfort.

"The good thing is I am pain-free," said Beltran, who will turn 38 in April. "Now it's time to continue to get better and put good at-bats during the whole spring training."

Rodriguez, playing in his second game of the spring, walked to lead off the second inning, shattered his bat while lining out softly to shortstop in the fourth, and watched three 97-mph fastballs from Blake Wood, the third of which appeared low, to end his night with a looking strikeout in the seventh.

"Well, the last at-bat I don’t think I saw one of those pitches," Rodriguez said. "I was hoping one of them was a ball. They were firm. They were firm."

In two games, A-Rod is now 1-for-4 with two walks and has yet to play the field. Girardi said it was "possible" Rodriguez will play third base in his next start on Sunday afternoon against the Washington Nationals at home.

"I like to play the game, so anything Joe wants me to do, I’m fine with," Rodriguez said. "But my focus right now is just to get as many at-bats as possible. All I’m looking to do right now is just square the ball, start hitting the ball with good contact, and hopefully in week 4 or week 5 I’ll start driving the ball. You don’t want to be locked in on March (6th)."

Chris Capuano, signed to serve as the No. 5 starter until Ivan Nova comes back from Tommy John surgery, started and took the loss, surrendering a long two-run home run to Tony Sanchez in the second inning. The Pirates added another run on an even longer solo home run by Jaff Decker off Jose Ramirez in the fifth. The Yankees got their only run on an RBI single by Jake Cave in the eighth.

"We saw a lot of baseball today," Girardi said. "You saw some guys get out there for the first time. (Chris) Martin for the first time and had a really good downhill fastball. (David) Carpenter for the first time, which was good to see. It was good to see (Brett Gardner) hit a ball on the screws and get on. Jake (Ellsbury) hit a ball on the screws. That sort of thing. So all in all, it was a good day.”

After five games, the Yankees' record is now 2-2-1. They travel to Kissimmee to play the Houston Astros on Saturday afternoon, with righthander Scott Baker starting. The starting infield is making the trip; both A-Rod and Beltran have the day off. And in probably the most important event of the day, Masahiro Tanaka will pitch a simulated game at Steinbrenner Field around 9:30 in the morning, likely his last prep before making his first spring start sometime next week.