A-Rod plates one in final rehab game

Yankees slugger draws two walks against top prospect Moore

Alex Rodriguez had an RBI single and drew a pair of walks Wednesday. (Danny Wild/MLB.com)

By Danny Wild / MLB.com | August 17, 2011 6:44 PM

MOOSIC, Pa. -- Wednesday night clearly was the Alex Rodriguez show at PNC Field. But when the rehabbing Yankees third baseman sat down for his postgame news conference, his first words weren't about his surgically repaired knee, but Durham Bulls left-hander Matt Moore.

"Matt Moore, you're talking about an impressive young man," Rodriguez said inside the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees' batting cage-turned-media room. "He threw the ball extremely well, it was a great challenge. Anytime you're facing a lefty that can get up in the mid-90s, I thought it was a good battle. I saw a lot of pitches tonight, so overall it was good."

Rodriguez left to a standing ovation in the eighth inning after his line drive single to right field wrapped up his four-game Minor League rehab stint. He'll rejoin the Yankees on Thursday in Minnesota after going 1-for-2 with a pair of walks in his second game at Triple-A, a 3-2 loss to the Bulls.

He started his rehab assignment with a pair of games with Class A Advanced Tampa as he works his way back from knee surgery last month.

"I feel good," said Rodriguez, who confirmed he will be in Minnesota on Thursday but will not play. "We're going to make a collective, smart decision and we have a lot of important games coming up."

Rodriguez actually heard some boos in the first inning when he let Russ Canzler's grounder bounce through his legs, allowing Brandon Guyer to race home with the Bulls' second run. He got a bit of a sarcastic cheer when he nabbed Ray Olmedo's inning-ending line drive.

"I really thought I played great defense when the ball wasn't hit to me," Rodriguez said with a smile. "Those are the hardest balls I've seen hit in about five weeks. But it's all part of the process. It was fun and I thought my legs felt good under me. Defensively, I thought I got a little bit better as the night went on."

Rodriguez appeared healthy in the field and made several nice plays to both sides. He robbed former No. 1 overall Draft pick Tim Beckham of a single down the line in the second but was tested again moments later when he failed to stop Canzler's grounder to his right. It was ruled a hit.

The three-time American League MVP, who has not played in the Majors since July 7, made another nice play to his left in the seventh, stealing a hit from J.J. Furmaniak while playing a step onto the grass with one out.

Rodriguez emphasized how impressed he was with all of the prospects on display at PNC Field.

"You play in a game like tonight and you have some tremendous talent out there," he said. "Tim Beckham, Matt Moore, our guy, Manny [Banuelos], and Jesus [Montero] -- that's four of the best prospects in baseball. I get a great kick out of being around some of those guys.

"It's been great, I know a lot of these guys, they've been in camp with us, but I never got a chance to really bond with them. I came in early and had some work sessions with the young guys and it's great, they're so receptive. They have such a great, bright future. Anytime you can come along and give them a word of advice about the game is a great opportunity."

Rodriguez also praised Montero's work behind the plate and said he could join him in Florida during the offseason to work on his hitting.

"The way he's caught the last two nights, he's obviously good enough to catch at the Major League level, no question," he added. "He plays with a lot of intensity. He's got all the tools. We came in today and had a great session, talked about the makeup, the mental side of hitting. Obviously, he's a guy we expect big things from. From what I saw the last two nights, he's not going to disappoint out there."

Moore was extra careful facing Rodriguez, who worked an eight-pitch walk in his first at-bat after fouling off several pitches.

Moore, the Rays' top prospect, struck out the side in the third, leaving Rodriguez to lead off the fourth. The 22-year-old left-hander got ahead, 0-2, but Rodriguez -- batting with just about all 10,408 fans chanting his name -- worked the count full before drawing another eight-pitch walk.

"I wasn't trying to stay away from him," Moore said. "It seems like a lot of people would, but it's just one of those things. In the first inning, I didn't have a good feel for anything; I was just trying to get the ball over the plate. The second at-bat, I went right after him, got 0-2, but I maybe overthrew a little bit."

Rodriguez faced reliever Joe Bateman with one out in the sixth and took a 2-2 fastball on the outer edge of the plate for a called third strike.

Facing Dane De La Rosa in the eighth, Rodriguez finally connected on a 3-2 pitch, going the other way with a line drive to plate Doug Bernier with the Yankees' second run. He was immediately pulled for pinch-runner Chris Dickerson and received a prolonged cheer on his way to the dugout.

For Moore, it was the shortest outing at Triple-A, exiting after throwing 84 pitches in four innings. He struck out eight and allowed just one hit, a leadoff homer to Greg Golson in the first.

"He's by far the biggest name guy I've ever faced," Moore said of Rodriguez. "I didn't want to do anything different."

Yankees starter Manny Banuelos struggled in the first, allowing two runs and throwing 41 pitches as the Bulls nearly batted around. He was charged with two runs on five hits and two walks over four frames, fanning five and throwing 91 pitches.

"He's sharp. He moves the ball around and gets bad swings," Moore said of Banuelos. "It was fun to watch him pitch in this matchup."

Rodriguez's presence not only drew a big crowd -- the press box was its fullest, the team said, since Roger Clemens' rehab in 2007 -- it provided a special night for those on the field.

"Yeah, it's been a lot of fun," Yankees pitcher Adam Warren said. "Obviously, he's going to bring a lot of fans, a lot more support. It's just a lot of fun to have that kind of atmosphere. To have a Major Leaguer -- and not just that but a superstar -- it's been a lot of fun to watch him go to work and be on the same field with him and have him play behind you." Yankees senior vice president of baseball operations Mark Newman was at the ballpark and said having some of the organization's top talent around Rodriguez for a few days was a nice benefit.

"It's relevant because these guys get to see him," Newman said. "Alex takes the time to be with these guys and talk to them about the game. He's obviously very talented, but he's also very passionate in the way he prepares and he's also very smart. He understands what they're trying to do."

The Yankees recently promoted another of their top arms from Trenton, Dellin Betances, a right-hander who grew up in Manhattan and is set to make his Triple-A debut on Thursday. Betances said having Rodriguez in town has been fun for the team.

"I've played with Derek Jeter earlier in the year, so to have A-Rod here, it's kind of a surreal feeling," Betances said. "It's just one of these things where you've watched this guy playing on TV and to play with them in Spring Training. And now, with them making a couple rehab starts, it's fun to have him here. And we always get some good spreads in the clubhouse."

Brandon Guyer, who's had a couple of stints with the Rays this season, also got a kick out of facing Rodriguez.

"The atmosphere is great. You're going to have a great crowd, so it's fun," he said. "I know the pitchers love facing him. It's just a good opportunity and you try to have fun with it."

"If you're playing against A-Rod, you're doing something right," added Beckham, the top overall pick in the 2008 Draft.

Beckham recently joined the Bulls and hit a grand slam Monday in Buffalo.

"It's great just to play against somebody as accomplished as himself. It's something I've looked forward to," he added.

NOTES: A-Rod chatted with Montero during batting practice before hitting a long home run off the scoreboard in left-center field. ...Scranton/Wilkes-Barre won't approach any attendance records, even with A-Rod in town -- the team renovated the ballpark several years ago when the Yankees moved in, a process that eliminated some upper-deck seating. But standing-room only crowds Tuesday and Wednesday are a rarity at PNC Field. ... Scott Proctor was back in his familiar No. 43, his first day with the club after signing a Minor League contract with New York on Saturday. He was a mainstay of the Joe Torre-era Yankees bullpen and pitched in the Braves system this season before being released last week.

Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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