TAMPA, Fla. - From the top down, the Yankees couldn't be happier with Alex Rodriguez's spring training.
The very top.
"He's been great. I'm very happy,'' Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told Newsday and The Associated Press Thursday as he left the stadium named for his father after a 6-2 split-squad victory over the Pirates. "He's working his [butt] off and he's been hitting very well.''
A-Rod didn't do any hitting on this day, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts, but still is hitting .286 with a .400 on-base percentage and three homers, tied for the team lead with Chase Headley.
Although his bat was quiet, Rodriguez, making his second career start at first base, performed quite well with his glove. The 39-year-old recorded seven putouts, including a pair of nice scoops on throws from shortstop Stephen Drew. A-Rod also had an assist, flipping to a covering Michael Pineda after fielding a ground shot.
"A lot more action today,'' Rodriguez said, comparing it to Sunday's game in Kissimmee, when he had to make only three plays. "It was fun. I had a good time out there.''
Joe Girardi, of course, hasn't put A-Rod there to have a good time. He might need him during the season if Mark Teixeira's recent history of nagging injuries continues and, for whatever reason, backup first baseman Garrett Jones isn't an option.
Girardi liked what he saw Thursday and said he wouldn't hesitate to put Rodriguez at first after the regular season starts Monday.
"Watching that, there might be a day where they're both in there,'' Girardi said, meaning Jones, who also plays rightfield, and A-Rod. "And you DH Tex or [Carlos] Beltran.''
Told of Girardi's endorsement, Rodriguez smiled.
"I'm glad he's confident,'' he said.
But he added, more seriously: "Yeah, I think I could manage.''
From the start of the experiment, Girardi said he expected Rodriguez to perform well enough at first base, but naturally there still was some doubt.
"When you get to be 39½, you're not sure what you're going to get,'' Girardi said. "But I believe in him because I know from a mechanical standpoint, he's always been sound. The one thing you have to watch is you can't play him as much as you used to, but you can play him a lot.''
A-Rod said he doesn't know how much he'll be able to play, but as he often has said, so far, so good.
"Most importantly, I feel healthy. I think that's always a relief,'' he said. "Get out of here [spring training] as healthy as possible. For the most part, I think as a team, we've done a good job of that.''