A-Rod won't play in spring opener

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez's return to a big league baseball field will have to wait another day.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Monday that Rodriguez's first game in nearly a year and a half will take place Wednesday when New York plays its first home exhibition game of the spring against the Philadelphia Phillies at Steinbrenner Field.

The Yankees' spring opener is on Tuesday against the Phillies in Clearwater, but Rodriguez will not be making the trip. Nor will many of New York's other regulars; Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are the only two Yankees expected to be in their Opening Day lineup who are on Tuesday's travel roster.

Girardi said Rodriguez -- who has been taking reps at third base and first base in training camp -- will be the designated hitter Wednesday and is likely to get two or three at-bats "depending on how often he hits and how long of a game it is, that sort of thing."

According to Girardi, their conversation about playing Wednesday consisted of two sentences.

"I just asked him, 'What do you think about Wednesday?,'" Girardi said. "And he said, 'Good.'"

Rodriguez took part in the Yankees' intrasquad scrimmage Monday, again as a DH. His day consisted of three pitches from a pitching machine, which Girardi said was set around 90 mph, taking one and swinging at two. In his first at-bat, he topped a grounder to third base, and in his second, he popped out on the first pitch he saw to shallow right field.

As he left the batter's box, a man's voice could be heard from the sparse crowd at Steinbrenner Field: "Just like in the playoffs!"

Rodriguez, who will turn 40 in July and is attempting to come back after serving a season-long suspension for PED violations, has not played in a major league game since Sept. 25, 2013. He did not make himself available to reporters after the 90-minute scrimmage.

"Our hope is that he can provide some offensive punch to our lineup," Girardi said. "I know it's a tall order. We know that.

"I mean, he's 39 and a half years old, two hip surgeries, but I don't ever count anyone out."

Rodriguez will stay behind Tuesday to take batting practice and field grounders at third and first, where the Yankees are considering using him occasionally to spell Mark Teixeira against certain left-handed pitchers. But Girardi, who has said he would not begin evaluating Rodriguez until the third or fourth week of spring training, could not say when he would use the three-time MVP in the field this spring.

"I don't know. I'll continue to talk to him," Girardi said. "I really don't have a date in mind. I want to watch him running, see how -- in my eyes -- I think he's doing. I'm going to ask him in his eyes how he's physically doing."

Rodriguez reported to Tampa several days before the rest of the Yankees' veterans and worked out for three days at the club's minor league complex across from the training camp. But he has yet to face live pitching -- he had been hitting against batting practice pitcher Danilo Valiente, a coach -- and has not swung at a real pitch in nearly 18 months.

"I don't think you'd say there's a huge difference from what I saw a year and a half ago, whatever, from his work in spring training," Girardi said. "But you know, we really have to see where he's at in about four weeks, where he's physically at. That's the important thing."