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If at first, can Alex Rodriguez succeed?

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez fields ground balls

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez fields ground balls during spring training at George Steinbrenner Field on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015 in Tampa, Fla. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. - It is one of those old sayings in the game, and Mark Teixeira was the latest to use it Friday.

"Anybody can play first base," Teixeira said. "Not everybody can play it well."

The Yankees got their first look at Alex Rodriguez playing on an unfamiliar side of the infield early Friday afternoon when he manned first base for about 15 minutes during pitchers' fielding practice.

Using the glove he typically takes with him to third base -- he said he couldn't find his new first baseman's mitt -- A-Rod went through mostly basic work: some grounders, coming off the bag on bunts, etc. But it was a start.

The start of exactly what, however, is yet to be determined, though as Joe Girardi said: "You prepare for everything during the course of the season. There's a lot of things that can arise."

That includes A-Rod occasionally spelling Teixeira, whose body has proved to be fragile in recent seasons, although newly acquired Garrett Jones will start the season as the primary backup at first base.

"I'm anxious to learn," A-Rod said after the workout, in which he worked mostly at third base and also went through a full round of batting practice (he hit three homers).

Rodriguez, a Mets fan growing up, said he long admired Keith Hernandez when watching those mid-to-late-1980s teams and appreciated playing with John Olerud in Seattle and Teixeira, whom he called "all-time" greats at the position.

"I really understand the value of a great first baseman," A-Rod said.

To be clear, Rodriguez isn't being asked to make an all-out position switch, as he was in 2004, when he joined the Yankees and went from an everyday shortstop to an everyday third baseman.

"It's a different game completely from shortstop [to third], so that was hard," he said. "That was very difficult."

Teixeira offered his share of pointers to Rodriguez and will continue to do so, but as someone who once had to make a similar transition -- he played third in college and his first year in the minors before being switched to first -- he knows nothing can duplicate game experience.

"It's not the ground balls, it's not throwing," said Teixeira, who credited his first manager, Buck Showalter, and Rangers veteran Rusty Greer with his development at first base. "It's really where to be, the angles, the bunts, footwork around the bag."

Asked if he is worried about embarrassing himself while trying to play first, A-Rod smiled.

"Yeah, sure, any time I am on a baseball field, I am pretty close to getting embarrassed," said the 39-year-old, who hasn't played a game in 1 1/2 years.

Teixeira believes Rodriguez will be fine.

"I think what will make Alex have a shorter learning curve is his baseball IQ," he said. "Alex is one of the smartest baseball guys that I've ever played with and he gets it. He gets it from all different aspects of the game."

Notes & quotes: Shortstop Brendan Ryan will be sidelined for at least the next five days because of a mid-back strain that he suffered, he said, while doing biceps curls about a week ago. "Nothing like last year or anything close to that," said Ryan, who missed much of spring training in 2014 with a pinched nerve in his neck. "This is no big deal." . . . Rodriguez, who took some grounders at shortstop Thursday, smiled but didn't bite when he was asked about playing some at the position this season. "I told Joe that he was going to get a lot of questions when I was playing shortstop out there the other day," he said. "But listen, whatever he wants."

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