ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Alex Rodriguez didn't make much of his fast start in spring training, saying on March 9, "Nothing's really significant this time of year."
Now he's bolted out of the regular-season gate in games that very much do matter, but the 39-year-old still isn't getting carried away.
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"It's 10 games," Rodriguez said before Saturday night's 9-0 victory over the Rays, a game in which he batted third as the DH and had a no-contact night -- three strikeouts and two walks. "Anyone can do it for 10 games. Let's just see what happens."
What has happened so far has nonetheless been impressive. Entering Saturday night, A-Rod led the Yankees in homers (four), RBIs (11), average (.344), on-base percentage (.432) and slugging (.781).
"I don't know how you can swing the bat much better than he's swinging it," Joe Girardi said. "He looks like he's back to me."
Friday night undoubtedly was the highlight of the season for Rodriguez. He hit two home runs, including one estimated by MLB Advance Media to have traveled 471 feet, and added what turned out to be the winning RBI single with two outs in the eighth inning. The homers gave Rodriguez 658 in his career, two shy of Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list.
Late Friday night, Rodriguez, who missed all of 2014 while serving an MLB-imposed suspension for PED use and his involvement with Biogenesis, acknowledged being surprised at the start to his season.
On Saturday, he added an element: surprise at how his body, which even before his suspension had started to show signs of breaking down, has responded.
"I didn't know what to expect from my body," he said.
He said the day-to-day grind of the game has been his biggest adjustment.
"I've been out of it 18 months," said Rodriguez, who played only 44 games in 2013. "I think it's easy to overlook that. I respect this game so much in that it's so damn difficult, the grind of playing every day and competing against the best players in the world."
Girardi rested Carlos Beltran, suffering from "that bad congestion, that bad cold that's been going around our team." Girardi said if Beltran, who hasn't been good at the plate, had been healthy, he -- not A-Rod -- would have hit third.
The drumbeat for second- base prospect Rob Refsnyder has been noticeably muffled. Refsnyder, who hit well during spring training but committed a team-high six errors, is hitting .219 with a .265 OBP for Triple-A Scranton / Wilkes-Barre and already has a team-high four errors. Said one scout, "I just don't see a position for him [in the majors]."