New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez follows through on a home...

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez follows through on a home run off Philadelphia Phillies' Roy Halladay in the first inning. (March 4, 2012) Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- A good spring training for Alex Rodriguez beats the alternative, but it portends nothing about the biggest question surrounding the third baseman this season.

And A-Rod, who homered on the first pitch he saw from Roy Halladay Sunday and added a single and RBI double in the Yankees' 7-4 victory over the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field, is the first to say so.

"Look, last year, I stood here and had a really good spring and felt really good,'' he said, "and the results during the year weren't what we all wanted."

Rodriguez ripped the ball in spring training last year, hitting .388 with a .444 OBP, six homers and 15 RBIs. Then he played a career-low 99 games in the regular season because of shoulder, knee and thumb injuries, managing only 16 homers and 62 RBIs.

So naturally there was caution about getting too excited about three hard-hit balls in his first official exhibition game (he did go 1-for-2 Friday in an exhibition against the University of South Florida). How he feels is much more important.

"That's everything. We've been talking about that the last week or so: Staying healthy's the most important thing," he said. "I'm making an effort toward that."

When Rodriguez reported to spring training last year, he proclaimed he felt better than he had in "three years." He later said that as good as he felt, playing in 150 games wasn't out of the question.

This time around there have been no proclamations, either about his health -- beyond "I feel good" -- or the number of games he expects to play. He probably won't make any, either.

"It doesn't matter what we say here in February or March," said Rodriguez, 36. "But you have to go out and take it one day at a time. I know this: If I feel healthy, I'm going to do some good things to help this team win."

He got his team off to a good start against the Phillies, launching an 84-mph sinker that did nothing of the sort into the forceful wind that blew from left to right all afternoon. The breeze and solid contact took the ball over the wall in right-center for a two-run homer and a 2-0 lead.

"I'm just lucky it was the first inning and he's not quite warmed up yet," Rodriguez said of taking Halladay deep. "He's probably going to be mad the next time I face him. But he's the greatest pitcher in our game, so it's great to always have a challenge like that, even in spring training."

"It was hit good," Halladay told reporters. "It was one of those pitches I was trying to get in and left it over. Probably as center-cut as you can get."

Rodriguez lined a single to left his second time up and slammed a run-scoring double into the leftfield corner in the fourth to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead.

"He looked pretty good, three pretty good swings," Joe Girardi said. "Seeing him go to rightfield the first swing, then pull two balls, just tells me he feels explosive . . . As I've said, one of the big parts of my job this year is keeping him healthy and fresh."

Good to decent March showings have been the norm for A-Rod -- "I can't remember an awful spring," he said -- but either way, it doesn't matter all that much to him.

"I've never put any emphasis on spring training," he said. "To me, what I put emphasis on is how your body feels, especially at this point of my career. It's just range of motion, flexibility, things that aren't really tangible. But spring training doesn't really mean anything. I've always talked about the work in spring training. That's the most important thing."

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