NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez homered in his return to the Yankees' lineup Tuesday night, but it was not enough to save New York from a 12-2 loss to Baltimore.
After missing three weeks with a strained right quadriceps, the three-time MVP hit cleanup and played third base for the last-place Yankees, who trailed Baltimore 9-0 before he even came to bat.
New York began the day 20-24, going 8-12 without Rodriguez.
"We're going to be fine. No one is running away with this thing," A-Rod said. "I don't know if anyone is counting us out -- I hope they are."
A-Rod reached on an error his first time up in the second inning, then grounded out in the fourth. He hit a two-run shot off Daniel Cabrera in the sixth, his fifth home run of the season and first since April 16 against Boston.
With a lineup heavy on left-handed hitters, New York has struggled against left-handed pitching in particular lately. Rodriguez's powerful presence from the right side should help balance the offense.
"It changes the dynamics of your lineup," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's good to have him back."
Rodriguez was activated from the 15-day disabled list. To make room for him on the roster, the Yankees optioned right-handed reliever Chris Britton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Girardi spoke to Rodriguez before the game and reminded him to just be himself now that he's back. The slugger also acknowledged that he must guard against trying to do too much.
"There's always a danger, especially because we need wins. There's a lot of urgency on this team right now," Rodriguez said. "But I remind myself that there's games that I went 0-for-4 and we won, and I've gone 4-for-4 and we've lost. It's keeping that in mind, keeping it in perspective. ... It was good for Joe to bring it up to me."
Rodriguez was hitting .286 with 11 RBIs in 91 at-bats when he went on the disabled list April 30. He said it was difficult for him to watch the Yankees on television while he was sidelined.
"I found it easier to watch other games," Rodriguez said, "especially when you're watching your brothers out there and you can't help them."
Rodriguez finished his rehabilitation at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., going 3-for-10 with a home run in two extended spring training games.
He said he's ready to go all-out, but he just needs to be smart about his legs.
"I don't think going kamikaze on the bases is the answer," Rodriguez said. "It's playing aggressive, with some intelligence. That's hard for me sometimes."
The Yankees are still missing All-Star catcher Jorge Posada, on the disabled list with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder. He hopes to return in early June.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.