A-Rod belts two-run homer in spring debut

A-Rod belts two-run homer in spring debut

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez started his spring with a jolt on Thursday, launching a two-run homer on his first swing of the year in a 13-4 loss to the Phillies, and the Yankees slugger hopes that is a sign of more good things to come.

Rodriguez, who hit 33 homers last year in what he called a "Cinderella season," did his best to keep those good vibes rolling when he connected for a two-run blast on a 1-0, first-inning offering from Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan.

"It certainly was surprising," Rodriguez said. "That was the last thing I was expecting. I hadn't taken a swing on live pitching; that was my first one. It caught me by surprise."

The Yankees are hopeful that Rodriguez will be able to repeat his performance from last season, when he seemed to respond to a new assignment as a full-time designated hitter.

As such, the Yankees have no plans to play the 40-year-old in the field, and Rodriguez said that he has modified his training so as to avoid wearing down late in the season. He said Thursday that he feels "lighter," more figuratively than literally.

"I feel better. I don't know why, but it just feels better," Rodriguez said. "I feel light. I think mentally, also, being clear and just having a lot of good energy helps."

Rodriguez said that he is enjoying being able to focus on his hitting, as opposed to last spring, when the Yankees worked Rodriguez out at both infield corners and he was still dealing with the residue of a historic drug suspension.

"There were so many questions coming into last spring, from how he would be received to how he would play at 39 years old to everything," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He answered all those questions and now he doesn't have to. It's probably more just based on how he's playing."

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Rodriguez allowed himself a few extra moments to watch the homer clear the wall before beginning his trot, saying that he enjoyed that trip around the bases.

"It's fun, no doubt about it," Rodriguez said. "Obviously you're not looking to hit home runs this early in spring or even to drive the ball; you're looking to see the ball well and put good swings on it.

"There are going to be some good days and some bad days. For me, the biggest thing is I don't have any distractions. I'm clear-headed, I'm coming in with a good attitude every day and I understand I have a purpose."

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