Alex Rodriguez made his debut at first base for the New York Yankees on March 29.
Alex Rodriguez made his first-base debut for the New York Yankees on March 29.
According to ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews, it was Rodriguez's first time ever to play the position in his 21 MLB seasons. Rodriguez made his first big play at first base during the second inning of the Yankees' 7-0 win over the Houston Astros, when he caught Evan Gattis' grounder which he seemlingy bobbled in his glove.
However, Rodriguez maintained his composure and got the ball. He then flipped the ball to Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi, who made the out at first base, per Matthews.
All in all, A-Rod logged three-and-a-half minutes in his first-base debut on Sunday. Wallace notes two other plays Rodriguez made were routine groundouts, although it did appear he took his foot off the bag a bit too soon in the first play. First-base umpire Greg Gibson eventually called the out.
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Wallace spoke with Rodriguez after the game to discuss the Gattis play and his thoughts on playing first base for the first time in his career:
"That was a very uncomfortable play, that's for sure. Kind of an in-between hop for a righthander. I'm just glad we got a guy out. I felt like a quarterback hitting my tight end on the run. I've never done that before.
"It felt good. It was fun. It was quite interesting, after 20 years to see the game through a totally different lens. It was pretty cool."
Rodriguez also added a single and a walk in his two plate appearances on Sunday to raise his Spring Training batting average to .324, per MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. He would likely be third in the Yankees' first-base rotation behind Mark Teixiera and Garrett Jones.
A-Rod also did a credible job of handling throws from third baseman Chase Headley and second baseman Stephen Drew, per Hoch.
However, Matthews stresses Rodriguez still has a long way to go in making the switch from third base to first base:
"Let's not get carried away here. There are still so many things Rodriguez has not done at first base, either in practice or in a practice game, which is what spring training is. He was never asked to turn a 3-6-3 double play, nor, thanks to Eovaldi's effectiveness (4 2/3 IP, three hits, zero runs, zero walks, five strikeouts), did he ever have to hold on a runner or position himself to cut off a relay throw. And, perhaps surprisingly, no Houston Astros player thought to test him with a bunt.
"If nothing else, A-Rod proved he could play the most basic kind of first base at a competent level."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi offered his own assessment of Rodriguez's debut at first base, per Hoch:
"The toughest things are when you get into cuts, relays and bunts, and we didn't get into any of that today. Fielding ground balls, I'm not worried about that. Really, I'm not.
"Catching the ball, I'm not worried about that. I think he'd be pretty good around the bag, even scooping, because you get a lot of those hot shots at first base."
Hoch points out Girardi may also utilize A-Rod at first base at some point during the upcoming 2015 MLB season.
After the game against Houston, Rodriguez admitted to Hoch he grew up idolizing former New York Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez.
"I came up and watching Keith Hernandez," Rodriguez told MLB.com. "I'll try to emulate one of my heroes growing up."
Hoch reported on Sunday that Rodriguez had been training hard for the first-base position for the past several weeks. He even had an extended training session with infield coach Joe Espada.
In the end, the 39-year-old Rodriguez told Matthews he's just grateful to be back playing. The league suspended him for the entire 2014 MLB season for his alleged involvement in the infamous Biogenesis scandal, where several players bought performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) from a clinic in Miami:
"I'm just happy to be playing baseball. I'm here to play baseball. I'm here to do exactly what my bosses want me to do, and I just want to help the team win. I'll tell you that I'm a lot more happy, fortunate and grateful than I was 12 months ago."
Rodriguez has amassed 2,939 hits, 654 home runs and 1,969 RBIs on a .299 batting average in 20 MLB seasons split among the Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees, per ESPN stats.
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