- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez isn't just "focused" on baseball right now.
Asked about David Ortiz's latest comment in which the Boston Red Sox slugger supported A-Rod, who was drilled by Ortiz's teammate Ryan Dempster last Sunday, Rodriguez replied, "I have a lot of respect for Big Papi, but for me I'm just laser-focused on the mission at hand, and that’s a big three-game series against Tampa."
The Yankees are 5-0 since beating the Red Sox that night. As Ortiz feared, Dempster may have "woken up a monster."
"I don't know about that. I just know that we feel pretty good, but we've gotta keep getting better," Rodriguez said. "We've got a lot of work to do. Every game is precious, and we just want to keep taking small bites at it."
New York now trails idle Tampa Bay and Oakland by 3.5 games in the wild-card standings.
"The team is confident," Rodriguez said. "The team is getting better every day. We are getting good participation from everybody. We still have a ways to go. We still have to improve every facet of our game."
Rodriguez, who had Wednesday off, returned to the lineup Thursday and went 0-for-3 with a walk, stolen base and run scored in his team's 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays. He also turned an inning-ending 5-5-3 double play to help Andy Pettitte strand the bases loaded in the fifth.
"I definitely felt better today," Rodriguez said. "My body felt pretty good. I felt I moved around pretty good."
In 15 games this season, Rodriguez is hitting .281 with two home runs and six RBIs. He has said he will end interviews if reporters bring up questions unrelated to baseball.
There were none of those Thursday.
• Third-base umpire and crew chief Ted Barrett admitted that he and his crew should've ruled Vernon Wells' fifth-inning RBI fielder's choice a catch.
"We looked at the replay and it looked to us like it bounced, but probably inside [Rajai Davis'] glove," Barrett said. "So on replay, probably would have been ruled a catch."
Barrett explained the odd call, which was initially ruled a single but later changed by the official scorer.
"The first-base umpire [Scott Barry] went out on the ball and he ruled that the center fielder [Davis] had trapped it. And the result of that, of course, all the runners are advancing. The runner from third [Eduardo Nunez] scored. The runner from second [Chris Stewart], thinking the ball was caught, went back to second, he's actually tagged before the bag. And then Ichiro [Suzuki] was diving in; he was tagged and he was safe."
• Pettitte won his second straight start after going 0-3 in his previous five starts. He pitched six innings of four-hit, one-run ball. The Yankees have now won five in a row and 10 of their past 12 overall. They have won 10 straight against Toronto and are 12-1 against the Blue Jays this season. Curtis Granderson has hit an MLB-high 31 home runs off left-handers since the start of the 2011 season. He took J.A. Happ deep in the fifth for his fourth dinger of the year.
13hRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com
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