Bottom of the first, the Yankees first out of the game was a routine 5-3 grounder. Except this time, Alex Rodriguez was the 3, not the 5. Making his career debut at first base, Rodriguez looked perhaps awkward, but passable at the position. He had three chances — two throws and one ground ball — and made all the plays.
“It was quite interesting after 20 years in the league to see the game from a totally different lens,” Rodriguez said. “It was pretty cool. … Not relieved. It was fun. Any time I get to go out and play the field and play baseball, I have a good time. I do hope, in all seriousness, that I can be an asset for Joe at some point during the year. If Tex or Chase needs a blow at some point, hopefully I can be an asset for Joe at some point.”
That seems to be the plan for Rodriguez in the field. He’s not going to play defense very often, and when he does, the Yankees just want him to make the routine plays. Play a passable version of first and third and Rodriguez will do his job. There’s a solid chance he won’t even get a turn at first during the regular season, but the Yankees want him to get some experience there just in case.
“It’s not something we’re looking to do,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s if something happens to one of our other guys. I would feel comfortable throwing him out there. I think he can handle it just fine. … The toughest things are when you get into cuts, relays and bunts, and we didn’t get into any of that today. Fielding ground balls, I’m not worried about that. Really, I’m not. Catching the ball, I’m not worried about that. I’d think he’d be pretty good around the bag, even scooping, because you get a lot of those hot shots at (third) base.”
Rodriguez took throws from third base and second base, but his toughest play was on a ball to his right. He had to charge it and field on a kind of in-between hop. He bobbled briefly but made a good throw to Nathan Eovaldi covering the bag.
“I’ve never made that play,” Rodriguez said. “I felt like a quarterback hitting my tight end on the run. I’ve never done that before, I don’t think.”
More important is the fact Rodriguez went 1-for-1 with a walk. He’s still having a great spring at the plate, he’s been healthy enough to play regularly, and both Girardi and Brian Cashman today said they’ve been happy with the way he’s settled back into the clubhouse.
“I’m happy to be playing baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I’m here to play baseball, I’m here to do exactly what my bosses want me to do, and I just want to help the team win. I’ll tell you that I’m a lot more happy, fortunate, and grateful than I was 12 months ago.”
• A quick heads up that we’re doing a chat tomorrow at noon. Stop by if you can. It’s the last off day before the Yankees get out of Tampa, and there’s obviously plenty to talk about. Chat. Here. Noon. Be there if you can.
• Girardi said there’s no real concern about Mark Teixeira after he was hit by a pitch to the knee in a minor league game this afternoon. Teixeira got some ice treatment and is expected to play again — as scheduled — on Wednesday. Didi Gregorius is also still on track for Wednesday, and Jacoby Ellsbury remains on track to play Tuesday.
• As the Yankees head into a Monday off day, Girardi said he hopes to set his roster — picking a backup catcher and deciding on the final two spots in the bullpen — before Saturday’s exhibition game in D.C. “I would hope we would have everything done before we go,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you don’t, because there might be other things involved that are out of my control.”
• Even with Esmil Rogers and Chase Whitley pitching out of the bullpen today — and seemingly every other rotation candidate shipped out of camp — Girardi is still not ready to name Adam Warren his fifth starter. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to some other players I need to talk to before I make any more announcements,” he said.
• While Girardi has said a few times that he’s not sure he’ll set a closer before the end of spring training, he said that if does make such a decision, he’ll make it known. The closer role won’t be a mystery heading into Opening Day. “Whatever we have the first game, there will be a plan in place on what we’re going to do,” Girardi said. “If I was to name a closer, I’d make it public.”
• Another good start for Nathan Eovaldi who went 4.2 scoreless innings with three hits, no walks and five strikeouts. It’s been a good and encouraging spring for him. “Just being able to use all four of my pitches (has been the best thing),” Eovaldi said. “Last year it was either fastball or slider. Now I’ve been able to mix in the curveball first pitch, using the split, and then being able to elevate with the fastball as well.”
• One downside to Eovaldi’s outing: it took him 89 pitches to get through 4.2 innings. Just not overly efficient considering he had so few base runners. He did have five strikeouts, but he had a lot more strikeout opportunities. “I felt like they were fouling off every pitch,” Eovaldi said. “I felt like I’d get ahead 1-2, 0-2 and then they’d work the count 3-2. I’d have to battle through it, but fortunately I didn’t walk anybody today and I was able to pitch out of it. … It’s important to me (to put guys away). I don’t want to get into those counts, those 3-2s. In my head, 0-2, 1-2, I need to be able to put them away with one or two pitches.”
• Girardi on Eovaldi: “He’s had a really good spring. I thought he pitched really well again today. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball. I think his split has developed, I think his curveball, he uses it effectively, his slider, I like what I see. He holds runners. We like him.”
• After being stretched out most of the spring, Chase Whitley faced just one batter today. He entered in the middle of an inning and got a strikeout to end it. Now that he’s working with a windup, Whitley said it actually felt important to have a day like this when he didn’t know when he was coming into a game. He had to get ready fairly quickly, and he’ll have to do that if he has a bullpen role this season.
• Speaking of Whitley’s role, he’s not sure whether he’s going to be a major league reliever or a minor league starter, but he seems ready to roll with either decision. He said he’s literally just trying to think about each pitch, letting the eventual role take care of itself. “You can paint enough small pictures to get a big picture,” he said. Good line.
• Esmil Rogers went 1.2 hitless innings today, Chasen Shreve went 1.1 hitless, and Jose Ramirez allowed two hits in a scoreless ninth. Ramirez also struck out two.
• Chase Headley’s strong spring continued with a home run, his third of the year. That was part of a three-hit day. … Rob Refsnyder had two hits, both doubles. … John Ryan Murphy and Stephen Drew each doubled. For Murphy, that’s important. He’s started to hit, which might help him in the catcher competition. … Brendan Ryan had a hit today. He also struck out twice.
• Final word goes to Girardi talking about Rodriguez: “There was probably more intrigue around him from all of us and probably from himself. I’m sure he had confidence in what he could do, but when you sit out a year and you don’t play a lot for two years, you’re probably curious what it’s going to feel like, how I’m going to feel every day, how my body is going to respond. I think it’s responded pretty well. I think he’s handled it well and he’s played well, so we’re encouraged by it.”
Associated Press photos