On Friday, Rodriguez was back in the starting lineup as the designated hitter for the first time since departing Monday's game against the Tigers with what was eventually diagnosed with a strained left calf. But on his second-inning groundout to third on the first pitch he saw from Felix Hernandez, Rodriguez jogged slowly to first and was lifted for a pinch-hitter the next time his turn in the order came around in the fourth.
"My swing, and probably that first step out of the box, I felt something," Rodriguez said. "I don't think it's any worse [than before]. I think it's probably the same."
Manager Joe Girardi said Rodriguez would probably miss the next few days, but that a trip to the disabled list was unlikely. No tests on that calf are currently scheduled, according to Girardi.
Rodriguez had been taking batting practice since Wednesday and hadn't reported any issues, leaving Girardi confident enough to slot him in as the DH in the cleanup spot for Friday's series opener with the Mariners.
"I talked to Alex, I talked to our trainers, I talked to our doctors and everyone felt he was ready to go," Girardi said. "We wanted to give him time, and we thought today was the day. Obviously it wasn't."
Rodriguez said his unfamiliarity with calf injuries -- this is his first -- has kept him in the dark about when to return and how far he can push it.
"It's hard to gauge what you can play through," he said.
Rodriguez's return might be complicated by the fact that the Yankees travel to Toronto -- and the Rogers Centre turf -- after this weekend set with Seattle. Rodriguez suffered a groin injury the last time the Yankees visited the Blue Jays by playing on the turf for three consecutive days, and Girardi chose not to start him three consecutive days in St. Petersburg earlier this month.
At the same time, it's likely that Rodriguez will work his way back into the lineup as the DH for a few days before returning full-time to the field. The Yankees placed Lance Berkman on the disabled list and called up infielder Eduardo Nunez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday largely because they needed an extra infielder in case Rodriguez took more time to return to third.
Either way, it's another disappointing speed bump in a season of them for Rodriguez, who was just warming up prior to the injury.
"I want to be out there. I thought I was beginning to get in a groove," Rodriguez said. "It's obviously really frustrating."
As important a piece as Rodriguez is to the Yankees' offense, the team is a remarkable 10-1 when he doesn't play, including the three wins earlier this week against the Tigers.
"We'll just try to get him back on the field," said Girardi.