TAMPA, Fla. — Two years ago, Alex Rodriguez still was very much at war with the Yankees, holding his first meeting of spring training with reporters on the sidewalk in front of the club’s minor-league complex.
Two Februarys later, A-Rod is due in camp, starting Tuesday, for the start of a three-day stint as a guest instructor.
Exactly what you would have predicted back then, right?
“You think of the history that I know, Mr. Steinbrenner always gave people second and third chances and brought people back to the organization that did really good things for the organization,” manager Joe Girardi said Monday, referencing George Steinbrenner. “There’s situations that happen that aren’t always so positive, but that didn’t keep Mr. Steinbrenner from bringing back people, and Hal’s doing the same thing.”
In fact, the rift created by Rodriguez’s involvement in PEDs and the Biogenesis scandal, which led to his suspension for the 2014 season, began healing shortly after he arrived in February 2015. By the end of that season, he again was a Yankee in good standing, aided in large part by his somewhat surprising production (33 homers, 86 RBIs).
With Rodriguez four homers short of 700 early last August and looking out of gas, the Yankees released him, bringing him on as a special adviser to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. Included in those unofficial duties is working with younger players in the organization, which began in the fall when he was here for two days during instructional league.
“He’ll work with our players, to extend the knowledge that he has about how to play the game, and talk to the young kids, some of the expectations,” Girardi said. “How to deal with it, how to deal with different positions. How to hit in the middle of the order. All the things that Alex did well, those are things we want him to offer insight to our younger players. And to the older players as well.”
One of A-Rod’s former teammates, the recently retired Nick Swisher, was in camp Monday as a guest instructor. The always ebullient Swisher, a Yankee from 2009-12, bounded onto the field as the outfielders stretched, exchanging hugs with most he encountered. Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner were among the first he saw.
“It’s good because Swish has a lot of insight as well,” Girardi said. “A switch hitter, he’s played the outfield and first base. He’s put up big numbers. And he’s a high-energy guy, and I think it’s great having him.”