Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A-Rod Homers on First Swing

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

A-Rod Homers on First Swing

Article excerpt

TAMPA, Fla. - Alex Rodriguez swung and stood for a moment. The Yankees' designated hitter barely budged from the batter's box until his long fly ball cleared the left-field fence at Steinbrenner Field.

"Yeah, it was certainly surprising," A-Rod said of hitting his first home run on his first swing in a spring training game.

Did he know it was gone?

"No, but it's fun. It felt good."

Asked if he paused to watch it fly, A-Rod said, "I do the same thing on a pop-up to short," another self-deprecating public remark from a man also fond of saying that he's eliminated the "luggage" that used to accompany him.

Baggage, luggage - you get the meaning. If A-Rod is feeling less burdened by his past this spring, it sounds like a positive thing in the Yankees' universe.

"For me, the biggest thing is I don't have any distractions," A- Rod said Thursday after going 1-for-2 with a walk in a 13-4 Phillies win. "I'm coming in with a good attitude every day and I understand I have a purpose.

"The team needs me to be productive in the middle of the lineup and bring some added value both in the clubhouse and on the field."

A year ago, A-Rod admittedly was "nervous" about his first Grapefruit League game following a full-year MLB suspension for steroids and his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

On Thursday, A-Rod's introduction drew the biggest cheers from the 7,897 fans, and the crowd stood to loudly cheer after he connected on lefty Adam Morgan's 1-0 pitch.

"Nice to see. I thought his at-bats were good today," manager Joe Girardi said of A-Rod, who also drew a walk against right-hander Mark Appel after striking out looking against righty Alex Asher. "I hope [the home runs] happen a lot more."

A-Rod clubbed 33 homers last season with 86 RBI - totals few had guessed were possible last March 3.

"You're not looking to hit homers this early in the spring," Rodriguez said. …

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