Alex Rodriguez lined a single to left field with two strikes on in his first at-bat in a year and a half, when the Yankees played the Philadelphia Phillies Wednesday afternoon in their spring opener. A-Rod acknowledged that he was jittery before his first at-bat since serving a suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs that caused him to miss all of last season. Manager Joe Girardi said that it was probably the first spring training game in a long time where A-Rod had been even a little anxious.
Batting second, Rodriguez was greeted by mostly cheers, and some jeers, from a crowd of almost 10,000 at Steinbrenner Field. After hitting the single he got a fist bump from Tony Pena, the Yankee’s first -base coach. Darin Ruf, the Phillies first baseman, told him “welcome back.”
As he came to bat for the first time A-Rod told Phillies catcher Tommy Joseph and home plate umpire Tom Hallion to “take it easy on the old man.” The former star grounded out on his second at bat and walked on his third plate appearance, at which time he was replaced by a pinch runner.
Rodriguez is expected to take the role of designated hitter and bat toward the bottom of the lineup. He has done some working out at first base, a position he has never played and for which he used a fielder’s glove in his first drills. He has, however, continued to be a magnet for attention, although most fans are waiting to see what happens. Few were wearing A-Rod jerseys and New York had no Rodriguez merchandise for sale in the gift shop.