It took all of 57 seconds on Monday’s season preview show for Alex Rodriguez’s pals in the Fox baseball studio to rib him about his relationship with Jennifer Lopez, including a mock tabloid front page reporting that Pete Rose now was dating the actress/singer/dancer.
Rodriguez said the next day that he neither was surprised nor upset by it. On the contrary, he chalked it up to what has worked about Fox’s quirky foursome of A-Rod, Rose, Frank Thomas and Kevin Burkhardt.
“The greatest thing about the show is it’s exactly what they would do in the green room before and after our shows,” Rodriguez said. “Really, nothing changes. We’ll say anything on the air and it’s very natural, especially coming from Pete.
“That’s what makes it great television. So no, I was not surprised . . . I never get mad at Pete. I love him.”
Their relationship is more important than ever now that Rodriguez is through as a player and has signed on as a full-time Fox analyst, along with his work as a special adviser to the Yankees.
“We have such good chemistry that I think all of us just wanted to get back together,” he said. “In many ways, it feels like high school, where you’re ready for a brand-new year and seeing all your buddies again.”
They got good reviews last postseason, after which Fox moved to keep A-Rod in the fold, including what should be an interesting addition to his portfolio: Working in the booth as a game analyst for select telecasts.
The first is May 9, when the Yankees face the Reds. The second is May 20, when the Mets face the Angels. Rodriguez said he is excited but nervous, in part because “it’s going to be incredibly strange not to be on the field and in the booth.”
Therein lies the emotional subplot of his new life. When he stepped down as a player in August, many expected him to resurface this spring in search of the four home runs he needs for 700 in his career. But no.
Still, he acknowledged Opening Day will be a psychological hurdle.
“Look, yeah, of course,” he said. “I’ve been playing baseball my entire life and I’ve been in love with the game ever since I was in Pampers. I love to play . . . So I’m sure it’s going to be a little difficult, but luckily for me, I’m still involved with Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees and mentoring our young players and still have a great job with Fox.”
The Yankees are on the hook for Rodriguez’s $21-million salary in the final year of his contract, and for their money, they’ll get a part-time adviser. He appeared in spring training and expects to do more during the regular season.
“I know that Hal really wants me to spend time with our young shortstops,” he said. “Our scouts have done a great job in finding all this great talent and it’s our job to help them out and help them mature into what we hope are going to be great young players for the Yankees for a long time.”
Rodriguez said he will go wherever Steinbrenner, general manager Brian Cashman and/or manager Joe Girardi think he might be useful, be it in minor league cities or the Bronx.
Like most who follow baseball, Rodriguez views this as a year of transition for the Yankees.
“The way I look at it is like if you just hit a great tee shot and you’re about 150 yards away and you’re sitting with an 8-iron in your hand,” he said. “You’re in a great striking position.
“To me, the most important thing is to really transition this year and get a full understanding of what it is we have and differentiate between prospects and suspects. Then that will put you in a position in 2018 to continue to build the franchise.”
When he is not on the road for the Yankees, he will be based in Miami, where his two daughters live. He will commute to Fox’s Southern California studios when assigned there.
One edge Rodriguez has over many of his fellow studio and game analysts is how recently he played.
“I think that’s something that helped over the last two years with Fox, just a matter that most of the guys I’m seeing, either I faced them as a hitter or I played against them as position players,” he said.
“That is completely advantageous, and I’ll be able to share stories and nuggets in my experience of playing these guys.”
By the end, he looked his age as a player. But now, at 41, young for the real world, he said he feels “great” physically.
“I’m a full-time dad,” he said. “Obviously, I miss the game, but I am very fortunate to be in a position where I am enjoying my life.”
ONE DOOR OPENS . . .
As Alex Rodriguez morphs into a baseball analyst, baseball’s most revered broadcaster begins life as a civilian.
On Monday, the Dodgers will play their first Opening Day since 1950 without Vin Scully calling their games. He won’t be in the stands. He won’t make a point of watching on TV, either.
“It’s a day game. I’ll probably have things to do,” the famed 89-year-old announcer said. “I might catch a piece of it.”
Scully says he’s grateful for every minute he spent with the Dodgers, the franchise he joined 67 years ago in Brooklyn and followed to Los Angeles eight years later. He feels blessed to have worked as long as he did covering the game he fell in love with as a boy. “Sure, after 67 years, you bet I’ll miss it,” he added. “But heck, I miss the guys I hung out with when I was in school.” — AP