A-Rod hitless in first rehab game

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Alex Rodriguez played three innings and went hitless in two at-bats during his first rehab game with the Charleston RiverDogs Tuesday night.

In his first appearance since surgery on his left hip in January, Rodriguez took few chances in the field or at the plate as he continues what he hopes is a journey back to the Yankees' lineup come July 22.

"To me it was a great blessing to be back out there," Rodriguez said. "It's been a long fight. A hard time. And I'm pretty excited to get a couple of at-bats."

Playing for the Yankees' Class-A affiliate, Rodriguez exited the game after he took a called strike three to end the third inning. He also grounded into a double play in his first plate appearance.

Rodriguez had his first defensive opportunity on the game's first play. Rome leadoff batter Kyle Wren put down a near-perfect bunt right at the third baseman, who didn't charge it but moved forward, caught it bare-handed and threw to first too late to get the runner.

"That was a welcome-back play," Rodriguez said. "It was a heck of a bunt; it always works out that way.

"I actually thought I was going to have to dive the first play of the game."

Overall, Rodriguez said his body felt good, though he won't know how good until tomorrow morning.

"I didn't move around too much," he said. "I thought the bunt play was OK. It was a good test right off the bat. I'll have a good idea after a half a dozen games. I'll see how my body feels in the morning when I wake up, how it aches.

"Timing is the least of my concerns. It's really about getting the overall body, getting in shape, getting my legs underneath. I need to make sure my body is conditioned for the long haul."

For now, Rodriguez says he's measuring success in baby steps.

"I put the ball in play," Rodriguez said. "That's a success. It's a slow progression, Three innings is not a heck of a lot. Three innings is not much. It almost feels like March 1st, like Spring Training."

Rodriguez will play again Wednesday night for the RiverDogs, then work out Thursday before a decision on where his next rehabilitation tour will take him.

Earlier in the day at a pre-game press conference, Rodriguez finally got his chance to respond to the question people have been asking for more than a week -- what he thought about Brian Cashman publicly telling him to keep his mouth shut.

Rodriguez claimed he has moved on from Cashman's controversial comment last week, when the Yankees general manager said the injured star should "shut the f--- up" rather than tweet updates on his progress.

"We have the same interests," Rodriguez said Tuesday at Joseph P. Riley Park. "We have the same goal, which is to get me back to New York as soon as possible and hopefully, like in 2009, win a championship."

Rodriguez declined to address more controversial subjects, such as the investigation into Biogenesis, but was happy to discuss his prospects at a return to the Yankees this season.

Rodriguez, who acknowledged that he likely would need 20 days of rehab games before returning to New York, also managed to be self-effacing.

"Anything that has to do with putting the ball in play and making a couple plays will be a huge moral victory for me," he said. "I have to be honest. I'm 38, not 28. I'm no longer a spring chicken. But I still feel like I can go out there and be productive.

"It's been a long time since I've done anything. Let's be honest, the way the year ended last year was pretty bloody. We got swept. I got benched, and pinch-hit for. And I have no one to blame but myself because I stunk up the house, that's for sure."

Rodriguez said the time spent rehabbing from his January hip surgery has been difficult and he's grateful to return to the diamond, wherever it happens to be.

"I've got to tell you, I'm really, really excited," Rodriguez said. "This probably has to be the hardest injury I've tried to overcome. It has to be the longest process, that's for sure."

Rodriguez is set to play again Wednesday. A decision on whether he remains with the RiverDogs as they travel to Augusta, Ga., has yet to be made.

Ron Aiken is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.