TAMPA, Fla. -- He had no first baseman's glove, zero experience at the position and seemingly, not much enthusiasm for learning it on the first day.
And yet, there was Alex Rodriguez on the practice field at Steinbrenner Field on Friday, taking grounders at first base, practicing fielding bunts and flipping to the pitcher covering, and -- with less than ideal results -- firing across the diamond to (the general vicinity of) the third baseman.
It was only Day 1 of the most fascinating experiment of New York Yankees training camp, but it was obvious there would have to be many more of these before it would be safe to deploy Rodriguez in an actual game, even of the spring training variety.
"I don't know if and when I will do it, but I do want to get a look at it," manager Joe Girardi said of using Rodriguez at first base in a game. "We're going to do it, but we're going to see how he feels, continue to talk to him, make sure he feels comfortable."
That may take some time. Asked if he was concerned about "embarrassing himself" on the field playing where he says he has never played at any level of ball, Rodriguez said, "Yeah sure. Anytime I'm on a baseball field I'm pretty close to getting embarrassed."
Part of that answer was the new, self-deprecating Rodriguez, and part the plain unvarnished truth.
Although he has said repeatedly he is willing to do whatever Girardi asks of him -- "I would run through a wall for Joe" -- there was a seeming ambivalence to Rodriguez's body language as he went through his drill.
The Yankees are trying out Rodriguez at first for several reasons. For one, Mark Teixeira, who played just 15 games in 2013 because of a wrist injury and missed 39 more in 2014, is no longer the 150-games-a-season stud he had been in his first nine seasons.
And perhaps most importantly, the Yankees need to find a way to work Rodriguez into the lineup if it turns out there is still life in his bat. He belted three home runs in 39 batting practice swings Friday, but none until he had already taken 24 swings, indicating his 39-year-old body needs some time to get going, and that his swing will improve with repetition. Right now, the only job the Yankees have for Rodriguez is as a part-time designated hitter against left-handed pitching.
"I think you prepare for everything over the course of a season," Girardi said. "I think you definitely think about playing him on days when you're giving [Teixeira] a day off. Maybe Garrett's playing right field, maybe your DH is moving around a little bit, maybe you're DHing [Carlos Beltran] a day. There's a lot of things you can do."
While Teixeira, a five-time Gold Glove first baseman, and Kyle Roller, a rookie trying to make an impression, went through the drills with vigor, Rodriguez seemed tentative and at times uninterested in the drudgery of charging bunts. Rather than break out the brand-new first baseman's glove he had displayed in the clubhouse on Thursday, Rodriguez used the same infielder's glove he had used at third base. And the first time he was asked to throw across the diamond, the ball sailed at least five feet wide of the third baseman and flew to the chain-link fence beyond.
"I think he was paying attention and trying to learn," Girardi said. "He's never taken balls over there, he's never seen what a bunt defense looks like from over there, and that's going to take some time."
Rodriguez described his inaugural drill at first base as "short," and described himself as "anxious" to learn the position.
When it was pointed out that the word "anxious" implied anxiety, Rodriguez amended it to "excited." He said that his 2004 transition from shortstop to third base when he joined the Yankees, where Derek Jeter was entrenched in his old position, was "hard, a different game completely," implying the move to first base would be easier. He invoked the names of Keith Hernandez and John Olerud, a former teammate in Seattle, as well as Teixeira, as the role models he would try to emulate as a first baseman.
But when asked what he had gotten out of his first workout at the position, he said, "Not much. We're going to get out there early the next few days here and start kind of going to work a little bit, breaking it down. Today was just kind of an introduction. It was more for the pitchers."
And as for any advice Teixeira had given him? "Find your mitt," said Rodriguez, who then experienced a moment of panic when he could not, in fact, find it anywhere in his locker.
It turned out the glove was in the possession of a Yankee clubhouse attendant who was in the process of breaking it in for him. The clubbie assured him the mitt would be ready to go by Saturday.
Teixeira, for one, believes that ultimately, the transition will go smoothly for Rodriguez.
"I think his learning curve will be shorter than most guys, and he's so athletic and he's got some of the best hands in baseball," Teixeira said. "I think he'll be fine over there."