MLB: A-Rod homers in debut
By Fred Goodall
DUNEDIN, Fla. ó Back on the field, Alex Rodriguez was able to put aside the steroids scandal.
At least for a little while.
Booed and taunted by opposing fans in the Yankees’ spring training opener, Rodriguez homered and drew two walks Wednesday in a 6-1 exhibition victory over Toronto that was anything but routine.
Rodriguez then got into an SUV that, according to the New York Post’s Web site, was driven by Yuri Sucart ó the person identified as the cousin who provided Rodriguez with performance-enhancing drugs. Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo said he could not confirm the identity of the driver.
It was Rodriguez’s first game since admitting he took banned drugs from 2001-03 with Texas. He left after drawing a walk in the fifth inning, and signed autographs for five minutes before calling it a day.
“This is what I do. I know how to play baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I just hope that’s the start of something really special for this year. I feel really good about our team.”
There were lots of cheers for the three-time AL MVP, a smattering of boos and occasional catcalls from the crowd of 5,014 at mostly filled Dunedin Stadium.
The New York third baseman walked on five pitches in the first inning. Many in the crowd stood and cheered as he circled the bases after hitting a tiebreaking, two-run homer off Ricky Romero in the fourth.
“It was just a fastball I left up, and he’s a great hitter,” Romero said. “He’s going to hit mistakes, and I made a mistake. I was just trying to be aggressive.”
By the third time Rodriguez went to the plate, hecklers who earlier shouted “Hey, A-Rod. Where’s your cousin?” and “Madonna” were drowned out by applause.
“When you’re playing, it’s hard to focus on standing ovations or boos. You’re just trying to go out there and do your job,” Rodriguez said. “Again, I didn’t see anything that was bad at all.”
The slugger had dinner Tuesday with Reggie Jackson, a special adviser with the team.
“I told him to hit the baseball,” Jackson said. “It’s really an old story. It never really changes. Hit the baseball, and hit it like heck. That’s really about all that really matters.”
The Hall of Famer also passed on some words from Hank Steinbrenner.
“He said, ‘You deliver this message: Just tell him hit the damn ball and hit it when it counts,’ ” Jackson recalled. “That’s really the most important thing that he can do. All the other conversations, they don’t matter. The more you talk, the more you have an opportunity to make a mistake.”‘
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