Alex Rodriguez and Didi Gregorius, the teacher and the student, walked side by side out to A-Rod's old home -- shortstop.
"The old professor," Rodriguez called himself on the field before taking that walk Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium and going over the finer points of playing the position, even though he hasn't played it since 2005.
Batting practice hadn't started yet. And A-Rod wasn't starting in Tuesday night's game against the Rays. He also didn't pinch-hit in the Yankees' 4-2 win. So the 660 watch -- the bid to tie Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time homer list -- is on hold. Joe Girardi wanted to provide some rest after starting Rodriguez at third the night before and with a day game today.
But this teaching job was important, too. The 25-year-old heir to Derek Jeter's throne at short has been struggling in his first month as a Yankee, struggling in every way -- batting, base running and even sometimes in the field, his top skill. Gregorius arrived with three errors, a .218 average, no homers and four RBIs in 17 games, then singled in three at-bats and had a clean game in the field.
"Didi's going to be a fine shortstop here for a long time," Rodriguez said. "I told him sometime around June 15 or June 1 he's going to look at all of this and say, 'I feel much more comfortable.' It just takes a little bit.
"His abilities are off the charts. We saw that in spring training. He's got the things you can't teach. Incredible range, great arm strength."
Third-base/infield coach Joe Espada had asked A-Rod for this assist with Gregorius. The session lasted 20 minutes or so. Ultimately, Rodriguez watched as Gregorius took grounders.
"Kind of working on his game clock, knowing runners, outs, when to charge a ball, when to stay back on a ball," Espada said. "Situations that we have been working on throughout spring training and throughout the season, but I wanted Alex to be out here to kind of give him some insight that I probably as a coach I can't give him that view."
Gregorius appreciated A-Rod's view and his time.
"It's helping me, everything he's been doing, the timing, knowing the runners since I came from a different league," Gregorius said. "It's a work in progress."
Girardi said: "Alex loves the game, and Alex is a teacher by nature."
Rodriguez is also a home-run hitter. Girardi wants him to get his historic homer out of the way soon so he isn't dwelling on it. The manager said A-Rod will be given the lineup card as one of the mementos when he hits No. 660.