ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The “will he or won’t he” aspect of the Alex Rodriguez saga is verging on the comical — even to A-Rod. His name was missing from the starting lineup for the sixth straight game Friday night at Tropicana Field, but after manager Joe Girardi said Rod riguez might appear against the Rays’ lefthanded starters over the weekend and would take grounders at first base Friday, reporters made a beeline for his locker.
Sure enough, Rodriguez had a first baseman’s glove with Mark Teixeira’s name stitched on it lying at his feet. Told that Girardi said he would work at first, he laughed and said, “That’s fine. It’s a start. I love that idea. Let’s tweet about it.”
During batting practice, Rod riguez fielded grounders for five to 10 minutes, but it wasn’t exactly an intense workout. Asked if it actually is possible that he could play first base this season, A-Rod said, “I think so. It’s just a work in progress.
“I’ve got to keep working at it. I think it’s important to be a piece for Joe, especially against National League teams to be available. It’s great value to go out there for a few innings and be a player.”
Rodriguez worked at first base during spring training in 2015 after his suspension for PED use and even played there in two regular-season games, but he wasn’t comfortable. He went on to have a big season as a designated hitter with 33 home runs and 86 RBIs, but he’s mired in a deep slump now. He had a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning Friday night.
Contrasting his regular role last season with his current end-of-the-bench status, Rodriguez said, “It’s a completely different set of circumstances.”
Asked if it’s tough to persist in his quest for playing time, Rod riguez told a story of how Ken Griffey Jr. encouraged him to keep working when he was demoted to the minors five times in 1995. Reminded that he’s 696 homers removed from that point, Rodriguez said, “The one thing I’ve learned is I know how to come back, you know?
“Joe said I’m going to get a shot. The job is to work as hard as I can to be ready when that shot comes.”