J As a child growing up in Miami, Alex Rodriguez would visit
family in Reading. Now, more than 20 years later, the Yankees third baseman is
back for a rehab appearance with the Class AA Trenton Thunder.
Rodriguez joined the team on Sunday and was in the lineup last night in Trenton's 6-5 victory over Reading. He is scheduled to play tonight as part of a three-game series against the Fightin Phils at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The 37-year-old is not only attempting a comeback after undergoing left hip surgery on Jan. 16, but also is dealing with a Major League Baseball investigation regarding his involvement in the most recent performance-enhancing drug scandal.
Rodriguez met last Friday with MLB officials in their investigation of the now-closed Biogenesis clinic in Florida that allegedly provided PEDs to Rodriguez and other players. Rodriguez last night declined to go into detail about the investigation.
"It is good to kind of get to Reading," Rodriguez said. "It is a familiar place for me. I used to come here as a kid to visit family most summers. I never thought I would be back in Reading so I am really excited to be here."
Rodriguez batted second and was welcomed each at-bat with a combination of boos and cheers. In the top of the fifth inning, Rodriguez sent a two-run shot over the left-centerfield wall, the first homer of his rehab stint and his first since Sept. 14, 2012.
"Yes sir. That one felt pretty good," Rodriguez said when asked if he knew if it was gone off of the bat. "It felt pretty awesome. It had been a long time. I was certainly not able to take a mid-90s fastball like that at the end of last season so that was certainly a big check in the box."
Rodriguez had three other plate appearances, grounding out to shortstop, singling to third base and striking out in his final at-bat. He was replaced defensively at third base by Casey Stevenson in the bottom of the eighth.
Until last night, Rodriguez had been anything but stunning at the plate. He now has a .200 batting average during his rehab stint, in which he has gone 5-for-25 in nine games with low Class A Charleston, high Class A Tampa and now Trenton.
"I feel more athletic," he said. "I think it's just baseball, it's movement and I haven't played baseball in over 9 months, and when you sit around everyday it becomes a little awkward. I'm literally getting back into the game and feeling a little more comfortable. I think there are still a few things I need to work on, going first to third and maybe breaking up a doubleplay aggressively by sliding into second."
Since the 2009 season, when the Yankees defeated the Phillies in the World Series, Rodriguez has experienced a steady decline in his production. A .300 lifetime hitter with 647 home runs, Rodriguez failed to hit higher than .276 from 2010-12 and averaged only about 21 homers.
"He looked OK," Trenton manager Tony Franklin said. "His swings look pretty fluid and rhythm looked pretty good. He took his ground balls out there, he moved well, threw the ball well. I think he will be just fine.
"I think he is here to play baseball and getting back into baseball shape and getting ready to play because let's face it, the Yankees could probably use him back in their lineup. I would like to see him back up there soon, too. We'll know a little more after [tonight's] game and hopefully we will know more after he finishes here."
Whether Rodriguez gets back on the field with the Yankees this season remains to be seen. It has been reported by multiple news outlets that up to 20 players linked to the Biogenesis investigation, including Rodriguez, are expected to be suspended.
According to a report in the New York Daily News, MLB met with Rodriguez for more than 4 1/2 hours last Friday and told him of the case it had compiled against him.
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