Alex Rodriguez said that in conversations with Triple-A players during his rehab stint, he has tried to remind the hopefuls "how close you are to the big leagues."
A-Rod himself is a tad closer, too. Two days away, actually.
The Yankees reiterated Friday that if all goes well this weekend, Rodriguez will start for them against the Rangers.
"Our best-case scenario is to have him in the lineup playing third base on Monday," general manager Brian Cashman said while with the Yankees in Boston.
If A-Rod feels OK after two more games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and a flight to Texas, Cashman said, "and he's like, 'I'm ready to go,' he's in there."
Rodriguez, batting second as the designated hitter, went 2-for-4 with two singles and a strikeout Friday night for the RailRiders.
"You definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
On a first-inning groundout to short, he ran hard to first and his gait didn't appear compromised.
Rodriguez blooped a single to right in the fourth but wasn't tested on the bases. In the eighth, he lined a single that one-hopped the wall in left and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Rodriguez slid feet-first into the bag, which was something he said was on his rehab checklist.
"I didn't care if he caught that ball in leftfield, I was still gonna try to slide," he said with a chuckle. "I felt good. Slow, but I feel good."
He struck out in the sixth on a changeup from Chad Rogers.
A-Rod is in the final days of a 20-day rehab assignment after left hip surgery in January. He said that despite being so close to his return, he won't be overly cautious in the remaining rehab games. "You go in there reckless," he said.
Rodriguez, 37, is expected to play third base Saturday and DH Sunday before rejoining the Yankees. He had 18 homers and 57 RBIs in 122 games last season.
"I think he'll be better than the production we've gotten from third so far this year, all due respect to everybody else," Cashman said.
Jayson Nix and David Adams, the Yankees' primary fill-ins at third, combined to hit .221 with 29 RBIs.
"Hopefully he's ," Robinson Cano said, "but you can also be asking too much."
Barring an unforeseen issue, Rodriguez soon will have the chance to begin answering just how much can be asked of him.
"Right now," Cashman said, "it's full steam ahead."
With Erik Boland
and David Lennon