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Saturday, July 6, 2013
Rapid Reaction: A-Rod hit on hip

By Peter Kerasotis

VIERA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez played in his third rehabilitation game Saturday night, this one with the Class A Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League. A-Rod had played two games Tuesday and Wednesday for the Charleston RiverDogs, a lower Class A team in South Carolina.

What it means: Another step toward his return to the major leagues. A-Rod got his first hit, a single, going 1-for-2 in three plate appearances.

No, not there: In his third and final at-bat, Brevard County Manatees starting pitcher Cody Scarpetta plunked A-Rod on his surgically repaired left hip. Rodriguez winced, put his hand over his hip and then trotted gingerly to first base. Scarpetta was then lifted from the game. "It wasn't really the hip," Rodriguez said afterward. "It was the I.T. band. One of those funny bones." The I.T. Band is the iliotibial band, a ligament that runs down the side of the leg. Rodriguez said he was hit by a curveball, and that he was fine.

Finally, a hit: After going 0-for-5 in his first five at-bats, Rodriguez lined a single softly to right-center field in his second at-bat. When asked afterward how it felt to get his first hit, A-Rod slipped into sarcasm. "It felt amazing, man. It was rocking. It was incredible. It was magical." Then he paused and added, "Who cares? Really. I did see the ball better. Those are the things I want to focus on, in all seriousness. I felt like I had better balance and that I'm seeing the ball better."

Groundout day: In his first at-bat, Rodriguez took the first two pitches for balls and then grounded softly to shortstop Yadiel Rivera. A-Rod looked particularly slow coming out of the batter's box and then picked up a bit of steam as he plodded to first base. The groundout was the fourth in his first five at-bats in his three rehab games. In the fifth at-bat he took a called third strike.

See how he runs: After he was hit in the fifth inning and took first to load the bases, the following Tampa hitter, Peter O'Brien, lined a ball to left that was misplayed and went to the wall. The hit cleared the bases with Rodriguez easily scoring from first. "I was probably going 75 percent," Rodriguez said. "I just wanted to make sure I was cautious. I felt pretty good."

No-slide zone: After reaching first base with his soft line-drive single in the third inning, Rodriguez became the victim of 6-4-3 double play. Rather than slide, he veered off to his right to avoid the throw. There was really no reason for him to slide, though, and not just because it was a minor league rehab game, but also because he was out by a huge margin at second base.

Ending with some extra work: In his fifth and final inning, A-Rod cleanly fielded two grounders -- a one-hopper and another on a routine grounder. "I was happy to get some work at third base," Rodriguez said. "I'm sure my defense is going to be several weeks behind my offense. I'm pretty confident that with some at-bats I'll be able to feel pretty good and be pretty productive. I think with any type of hip surgery, lateral movement is always going to be a little challenge. With defense, there's a lot more you have to do."

Quick reflexes: In the third inning, Rodriguez went to his right and leapt slightly to catch a soft line drive off Manatees second baseman Greg Hopkins. It was his first fielding opportunity in the game.

With the kids: Rodriguez gravitated toward O'Brien, a University of Miami product who DH'ed behind him in the lineup. "I had batting practice with him, and I'm telling you right now, this guy is going to have a really good big-league career. He's got power. I was very impressed by him." Normally, O'Brien is a catcher and third baseman.

What's next: Weather permitting, Rodriguez will play for the Tampa Yankees again on Sunday against the Brevard County Manatees. Game time is 5:35 p.m.