March 04, 2015
TAMPA, Fla. — Alex Rodriguez returned to the New York Yankees after an absence of more than 17 months, lining a single into short left field in his first at-bat and going 1 for 2 with a walk in a 3-1 spring-training loss to the Phillies on Wednesday.
Greeted by a 10-second mix of boos and cheers from the crowd of 9,673 as he stepped into the batter's box for his first game following a one-year drug suspension, Rodriguez was wearing the Yankees' white uniform with pinstripes for the team's exhibition season home opener rather than the usual dark blue jersey used in exhibition games.
"Once you hit rock bottom, any time you hear a few cheers these days is a pleasant surprise," he said.
Rodriguez swung at the first four of 10 pitches he saw in three plate appearances. Batting second as New York's designated hitter, he swung past a pair of 91 mph pitches from Philadelphia's Kevin Slowey in the first inning.
"I felt like I was swinging under water," he said. "I was like, man, it's been a long time."
He lined a soft single to left on an 89 mph 0-2 offering that was over the plate. That drew cheers from fans at Steinbrenner Field on a sunny afternoon with a temperature in the low 80s.
"It's probably the first spring training game in a long time that he's been a little anxious," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Rodriguez has had success against Slowey, going 4 for 9 during the regular season with two doubles and a home run.
When Rodriguez came up again in the third, he grounded a 96 mph fastball from reliever Paul Clemens to shortstop for an inning-ending forceout. He walked on a full count in the sixth against Ethan Martin, loading the bases with no outs and the Yankees trailing 2-0.
He has a little more than a month to show he should be in the lineup when the Yankees open their season at home against Toronto on April 6.
"It's going to take two or three weeks for me to kind of get a gauge where I am," Rodriguez said.
There appeared to be few fans wearing shirts with Rodriguez's No. 13; there was a scattering of spectators with the No. 2 of Derek Jeter, the Yankees captain who retired at the end of last season.
Phillies: LHP Cliff Lee makes his spring training debut Thursday against Houston in Kissimmee.
Yankees: RHP Esmil Rogers starts Thursday versus Pittsburgh in Bradenton.
Phillies: LF Grady Sizemore was hit on the right knee by a Kyle Davies pitch in the fourth and left for a pinch runner later in the inning. "Just precautionary," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Yankees: INF Brendan Ryan (back strain) felt sore after Tuesday's workout and didn't participate in outdoor drills Wednesday.
Phillies: Slowey, the winner, retired all six batters he faced other than Rodriguez. He threw 20 of 30 pitches for strikes.
Yankees: Nathan Eovaldi, obtained from Miami in a December trade, took the loss. He gave up one run and two hits in two innings, allowing Cord Phelps' RBI single in the second. "I felt strong going out there. That's everything I wanted to work on," said Eovaldo.