Alex Rodriguez said after his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday that the rehabilitation process was actually getting easier for him as he reached the higher levels.
The flow of the game has become more familiar, more predictable than in the lower rungs of the Minors, he claimed. His second at-bat, in a way, seemed to back that up.
The Yankees third baseman, who began his journey back to the Majors on July 2 with Class A Charleston, hit a sharp flyout in his first plate appearance in the first inning. Stepping to the plate again in the third, he took the fourth pitch he saw from Louisville starter Chad Reineke and parked it over the right-center field wall for a two-run homer.
The shot put the RailRiders on the board and sent them on their way to an 8-0 victory over the Bats. Rodriguez finished 1-for-4 and said those first two trips to the plate, in which he was able to drive the ball well in the air, was what he wanted to see from himself.
"The first one felt good as well. Any time that I can get the ball up in the air, especially to center field, right-center, that's a good sign," he said. "I tell you what I don't want. Rollers to third and short. That's a bad sign. I'm excited, but we can't get ahead of ourselves.
"I think it just takes time. It's a process. Having played it a long time, baseball is a very difficult game. But over the last four or five days, I've shown signs of finding my swing, and overall, I feel better. I want to keep getting more athletic every day."
Rodriguez has now played 11 games in the New York system with additional stops at Class A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton. In those contests, he's hit .188/.250/.406 but he's gone 3-for-11 (.273) with both of his home runs in the three games between Double-A and Triple-A.
"If I had stayed in A ball, I would've had a miserable career," he joked. "I was lost down there, completely overwhelmed. It's funny, as you start moving up, the game starts slowing down. As you go up in levels, it gets a lot easier, more comfortable.
"I think the hardest level was [Class A] and [Class A Advanced]. That was the most challenging and unpredictable brand of baseball. Obviously the last two levels, I have been a lot more comfortable."
Rehabbing Michael Pineda, who also has been to Tampa, Trenton and is now with the RailRiders, scattered three hits and a walk while striking out eight in 4 2/3 innings without factoring into the decision. Rodriguez said he was impressed by the right-hander, who is attempting to return from 2012 shoulder surgery.
"Thought he threw the ball with a lot of conviction and rhythm, he looked good," Rodriguez said. "Michael is a very special kid. Let me tell you something, he's one of the strongest and fastest pitchers in the whole organization, and it's hard to believe since he's such a big man. But it was like a football combine, he'd have a really high grade. You have to see him run and in the weight room, he's a monster.
"I think that will translate as he comes back from his surgery. It's going to take some time, especially being a power pitcher, but I see him next year pitching 94-98 [mph], getting back to that velocity and I think this year he's going to be a factor at some point."
With about three more games slated for Rodriguez's rehab tour, he said his journey through the system has been eye-opening.
"The whole farm system with New York, we're in tremendous hands," he noted. "At every level there's guys that I can think of that are going to be factors in New York and I'm excited about playing baseball in New York."