Rodriguez relieved to get first homer of season on the books

Yankees slugger batted second as designated hitter vs. Blue Jays

Rodriguez relieved to get first homer of season on the books

NEW YORK -- There were undoubtedly times during Alex Rodriguez's season-long suspension when he wondered if his career statistics would be forever frozen, exactly as they were at the end of 2013. With his return to the diamond, those numbers have resumed activity.

Rodriguez hit his 655th career home run in Thursday's 6-3 Yankees loss to the Blue Jays, a sixth-inning solo shot to left field off left-hander Daniel Norris. It marked Rodriguez's first homer since Sept. 20, 2013, when he hit a grand slam off the Giants' George Kontos.

"I felt like I needed Google Maps or something to round the bases," Rodriguez said. "It's been a long, long time. It certainly felt good to get some cheers in front of the home fans and get us going a little bit. Any time you get the first one of the column -- win, hit, RBI -- all those things are important."

The homer came on a high, 89-mph fastball from Norris, who also surrendered a solo homer to Mark Teixeira over 5 2/3 innings and picked up his first Major League victory.

Serving as the Yanks' designated hitter for the third straight game, Rodriguez went 1-for-3 and is batting .222 (2-for-9). He is five homers shy of tying Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the all-time home-run list.

"Obviously, we want him to drive the ball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's a good sign for us. I thought he hit one yesterday that might have been a home run if not for the wind. That's a good sign for us. We need that production from him."

Rodriguez batted seventh in the Yankees' first two games of the season, but with Brett Gardner getting the day off against lefty Norris, Girardi said that he decided to promote Rodriguez to the two-hole. Rodriguez claimed that he was unaware of the decision until he was told by a reporter.

"You're kidding me!" Rodriguez exclaimed on Thursday afternoon, rushing to a lineup card to confirm for himself.

"Coming into Spring Training, I didn't know what to expect, being out two years. That's a long time," Girardi said. "I always thought Alex's mechanics have been very good, which gives him a better shot in those instances when you've been out a long time. Your timing usually comes back quicker. He's done really well."

Though Rodriguez has not yet been asked to wear a glove in the field, that day is approaching. Rodriguez continues to take ground balls at third base and first base during batting practice. Rodriguez said he has not been told when he might be called upon to spell Chase Headley or Teixeira.

"I have to stay ready," Rodriguez said. "I love playing baseball. I'm enjoying what I'm doing right now. It feels good to go out and just contribute any way I can."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.