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'Underdog' Alex Rodriguez says he's up for the challenge

Alex Rodriguez sits in the dugout during the

Alex Rodriguez sits in the dugout during the fourth inning in his second rehab game with the Charleston RiverDogs. (July 3, 2013) Credit: AP

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Early in his 20-day rehab assignment, Alex Rodriguez believes most people view him as an underdog in terms of returning to a productive role with the Yankees.

"I think so," Rodriguez, who will turn 38 on July 27, said after Thursday's workout at the Charleston RiverDogs' Riley Park. "After two hip surgeries, there are a lot of naysayers, and science may bet against me. But I'm excited for the challenge. We'll see what happens."

A-Rod played three innings each night in two games with the Class A RiverDogs, going 0-for- 4 with three groundouts and a strikeout. It was his first game action in almost nine months after offseason hip surgery.

Rodriguez said he felt "literally no pain" from his hip and said he is not concerned about his slow start.

"Two games in nine months," he said. "I'm going to have a lot of patience. It is a process and it's going to take a lot longer than two games. Even if you sprinkle in a couple hits here and a double there, it doesn't really mean anything. It's my body first. Making defensive plays, double plays. Those are the things I want to see rather than the results right now."

On Thursday, he arrived at Riley Park at 11 a.m. for a session in the weight room. The workout switched to the field at noon and started in the batting cage.

Director of player development Pat Roessler worked with Rodriguez, lobbing him underhand throws from approximately 15 feet. A-Rod worked on hitting everything to the right side of the field for 10 minutes, then hit to the left for another 10.

Then Rodriguez moved to third base and practiced situational fielding, with Roessler barking out instructions: "First and third, one out" or "first and second, one out."

Rodriguez then practiced catching pop flies from the pitching machine and wrapped up the workout at 1:20 p.m. after a few looping jogs from first to third on the edge of the outfield grass.

The schedule calls for him to play with the Tampa Yankees in Lakeland, Fla., Friday and at Brevard County Saturday. Sunday is scheduled as a day off.

Rodriguez likely will increase his workload to five innings in his next two starts, although he stressed that everything about the schedule is tentative. "This thing can change minute to minute," he said.

Rodriguez, who has four years remaining after this one on his contract with the Yankees, declined to speculate about his future.

"My only focus is now and when I come back," he said. "You want to be a productive bat in the middle of the lineup. Give some productive punch and be somebody your teammates can rely on. I'm excited about the challenge ahead of me right now. It's a heck of a challenge."

Rodriguez played in front of sellout crowds in Charleston that cheered his every move.

He was asked what kind of reaction he expects when he returns to New York.

"I hope it's positive," he said. "I'm optimistic about it. I continue to get tremendous support from a lot of people. I haven't played the underdog role for a long time, but I like the way people are cheering me on and supporting me. It feels pretty good."

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