Alex Rodriguez grounds out in the first inning of a...

Alex Rodriguez grounds out in the first inning of a Class AA game with the Trenton Thunder against the Reading Phillies. (July 15, 2013) Credit: AP

READING, Pa. -- Alex Rodriguez couldn't remember when he had hit his last home run, but his latest one apparently helped him take a major step in his 20-day rehabilitation assignment as he attempts to return to the Yankees.

Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a home run in his first game with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, who defeated the Reading Fightin' Phillies, 6-5, before a crowd of more than 6,000 at First Energy Stadium. It was A-Rod's ninth minor-league game.

In the third at-bat, with a runner on first and Trenton trailing 4-1 in the top of the fifth, Rodriguez smacked a 1-and-0 fastball from Reading starter Austin Wright approximately 400 feet over the left-centerfield fence and to the left of the scoreboard. The shot cleared a set of seats and landed at the top of a grassy hill behind the stadium.

"I hit a 90-plus mile-per- hour fastball and it went right off the bat," he said. "[Wright] was challenging me and throwing strikes. I got the best of him. I really feel like I'm swinging the bat well the past three days.''

A-Rod was credited with a third-inning single on a grounder that popped in the air after hitting the glove of third baseman Maikel Franco.

Rodriguez indicated that he is beginning to feel more comfortable at the plate. The homer was only his second extra-base hit in the nine games and gave him his first multi-hit game of his rehab stint.

Rodriguez is 5-for-25 (.200) with five RBIs and seven strikeouts. He plans to be in the starting lineup when Trenton plays at Reading Tuesday night.

"Tonight, we checked off a lot of boxes,'' he said. "I thought I swung well and had a lot of action at third base."

Rodriguez looked smooth in the field as he recorded five assists, one in which he charged a grounder to his left and flipped a throw to first baseman Andrew Clark to end the fourth inning.

Barring a setback in his rehabilitation this week, Rodriguez expects to join the Yankees when they play the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, in a series that begins Monday.

When asked if he is ready to rejoin the Yankees, he didn't deviate from the plan.

"In six days," he said about his return. "I have been moving along the schedule in my overall game and I'm feeling more athletic and complete."

"My feeling is that he's got to the 21st [of July] and we're going to evaluate it over the next week and hopefully he does real well so we can add him on the 22nd," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said earlier Monday. "We'll evaluate this week and hopefully we're not in that position to decide 'What's next?' Obviously, the purpose of a rehab assignment is to finish off your rehab. If we feel he is not ready and he needs more time, he stays on the DL and you keep working him out."

A player must agree if the club decides to keep him on the DL after his rehab stint is over. What would happen if A-Rod resisted? "I've got no idea," Cashman said. "That's not something we've even thought about."

Players can file a grievance, a person familiar with the Basic Agreement said, but parties usually find common ground. Cashman said he "may or may not" see Rodriguez play this week.

With Steven Marcus

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