TRENTON, N.J. — For those who were questioning whether the return of Alex Rodriguez might cool the red-hot Yankees, the slugger issued an answer on Wednesday night.
Rodriguez crushed a two-run homer to the deepest part of Arm & Hammer Park in his final at-bat of a two-night minor league rehab stint with Double-A Trenton. A-Rod reached down for a 1-and-0 offering from New Hampshire righthander Casey Lawrence in the second inning and sent it over the 407-foot mark in dead centerfield in the Thunder’s 6-4 win.
Rodriguez has been on the DL for three weeks with a right hamstring strain. Though the Yanks were 14-6 without him, getting back their most-feared hitter can only improve them. He could start Thursday afternoon’s series finale against Toronto at the Stadium. There’s “a pretty good chance,” Yanks manager Joe Girardi said.
Neither at-bat really offered A-Rod the chance to test the hamstring on the basepaths but he said “my job is to give Joe and the Yankees quality at-bats, be a dangerous bat in the middle of the lineup and help our offense put up crooked numbers.”
To that end, the hamstring tested out perfectly.
“Legs are the most important part when you think about hitting for power,” Rodriguez said. “I thought my explosion was pretty good at the plate. Hopefully that transfers over to New York.”
A-Rod also hit a groundout to shortstop in the first inning. He finished his two-night stand 3-for-6 with a homer and three RBIs.
“Though all my at-bats, I felt good about them,” Rodriguez said. “I was surprised I saw the ball pretty well. But to make good contact, the last one felt good.”
Rodriguez was turning the page on an awful start before he injured the hamstring running to first base May 3 in Baltimore. During the last six games before he went to the DL, his slash line was .368/.400/1.000 with three homers and seven RBIs. The game before he got hurt, he had a homer and four RBIs at Boston and he said the home run Wednesday “felt a lot like when I played in Boston.”
“Look, the last eight or nine games before I got hurt, I felt pretty good,” Rodriguez said. “April was not pretty for me.”
For the season, Rodriguez is batting .194 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in 20 games.
In A-Rod’s absence, Carlos Beltran has been the Yanks’ primary DH. In those 20 games entering Wednesday night, he is batting .292 with six home runs and 20 RBIs and some speculate the time off the field has helped. Still Beltran says he prefers playing the outfield. A-Rod, with two surgically-repaired hips, embraced playing DH long ago.
“I’m not like Carlos. I actually like DH a lot. I’ve played shortstop, I played the field for over 20 years, and I realize that the biggest impact I can make in helping us win games is by doing damage in the middle of the lineup and the DH is just a great asset for me.”
With Laura Albanese