Notes: A-Rod goes deep, talks contract
Yanks power up against Reds; Pettitte getting closer to return
SARASOTA, Fla. -- As Alex Rodriguez returned to the dugout following his first home run of the spring Thursday, manager Joe Torre pulled him aside to deliver a quick message.
"I can't guarantee you two days off before every game," Torre said he told Rodriguez.
After an excused absence from the Yankees' game against the Phillies on Tuesday, plus New York's lone off-day of the spring on Wednesday, Rodriguez returned to Grapefruit League play and delivered just his third extra-base hit of the spring, blasting a long homer off Cincinnati starter Kyle Lohse.
"I've actually enjoyed this spring," said Rodriguez, who is batting .317. "It's been good. It's gone by pretty quickly. I feel like I'm right on schedule."
Rodriguez's two days off may have been restful -- he spoke about having no greater aspirations for Wednesday than taking an hour-long nap with his daughter, Natasha -- but they weren't uneventful.
A news story surfaced Wednesday in which general manager Brian Cashman said that the Yankees are not inclined to negotiate a contract extension or restructuring with Rodriguez.
Such a deal may have circumvented a looming opt-out clause Rodriguez holds that can be triggered following the 2007 season, but the Yankees have stated they are not inclined to negotiate in-season contract extensions. In Rodriguez's case, the third baseman already holds a substantial deal that would not be renegotiated.
Earlier Thursday at Legends Field, Rodriguez told reporters that he was "not surprised" by Cashman's comments and that nothing has changed in his situation.
"It can come up every day of the year, I'm going to give you the same answers," Rodriguez said. "You guys ask the questions, I'm going to answer you the same way. It's really not a big deal."
Rodriguez batted .290 with 35 home runs and 121 RBIs last season, in what was considered by many to be an "off" year for the two-time American League Most Valuable Player.
With nine Grapefruit League exhibitions remaining on the slate, the Yankees are looking ahead to the regular season, said A-Rod.
"Regardless of how it looks now, we've got to go out there and perform and get it done on the field," Rodriguez said.
Powering up: Rodriguez wasn't the only Yankee going deep on Thursday. Right fielder Bobby Abreu homered in just his fourth at-bat of the spring, launching a three-run homer off Lohse inside the right-field foul pole. Josh Phelps added a solo shot in the seventh inning.
"That was pretty good contact [on a] ball inside, which is good," Abreu said. "Pitches inside are the ones that are going to cause me a lot of problems. Right now, I'm just more worried about reactions to balls inside."
Returning to action after a strained right oblique muscle suffered on Feb. 26 in Tampa, Abreu had served as a designated hitter for three at-bats on Tuesday. Abreu said he also had no physical problems as he returned to the outfield.
"I feel like I can move side-to-side with no problems, react with no problems, and especially throw to the bases," Abreu said. "That's a lot of progress."
Pettitte getting closer: Andy Pettitte will miss a scheduled start Friday after suffering back spasms earlier in the week, which the left-hander said have largely subsided.
But because the Yankees are counting heavily on the 34-year-old left-hander to help anchor their rotation, the club has insisted upon a cautious approach with Pettitte.
It may even be a bit too slow-moving for the hurler, who insists he is ready to resume throwing activities.
"I feel a lot better, but I forgot how little of a say you have sometimes," Pettitte said. "I'm feeling better and that's really it. Every time I tell them what I want to do, they tell me how it's going to be."
With his start Friday scratched, Pettitte will probably have just one more Grapefruit League start before he prepares to face the Devil Rays in the Yankees' first series of the year.
Torre has told Pettitte that he has looked good enough in Spring Training to make just one more tune-up start, and the numbers bear that out.
Pettitte has allowed just five hits in 10 shutout innings over three starts, walking two and striking out seven. Still, he sounded like a man who was aching to pitch on Friday.
"My Spring Training numbers have been good, but I could care less about that," Pettitte said. "It's more how I feel."
Swarm stoppage: The fifth inning of Thursday's contest was interrupted by a swarm of bees that roamed the playing field at Ed Smith Stadium, chasing most of the Yankees off the diamond and briefly pausing Pavano's performance.
Catcher Jorge Posada said he was among the first to see the bees, of which Derek Jeter estimated there had been about 100.
"I screamed," Posada said. "I thought they were bubbles at the beginning -- like they had one of those bubble machines. I started running. They were going straight toward the guys."
With the bees targeting the pitcher's mound and the area between shortstop and third base, Jeter and Rodriguez sought cover and dashed off the field.
"It looked like Jete and I quit, probably," Rodriguez said. "I've never seen that before. It was scary."
Torre said that left fielder Kevin Reese had been the last to realize why his team was leaving the field in the middle of an inning. The bees also forced a number of fans to scatter, but no one was sure where they eventually went.
"I hope they didn't find themselves inside the [team] bus," Torre said.
In action at Himes: Probable Opening Day starter Chien-Ming Wang turned in six innings of work against the Phillies' Triple-A team on Thursday, throwing 64 pitches.
Wang allowed five hits and allowed three earned runs, walking none and striking out four. Torre joked with Wang earlier that he shouldn't be upset if some of the Phillies' Minor Leaguers asked for his autograph.
Chris Britton pitched in the same game and allowed one hit in two scoreless innings, striking out three in a 34-pitch stint. Scott Proctor threw 28 pitches over two innings of scoreless, two-hit relief against Philadelphia's Double-A club.
Coming up: The Yankees travel to Bradenton, Fla., to face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Darrell Rasner is scheduled to make his first start of the spring for New York, with former Yankee right-hander Shawn Chacon making the start for the Bucs.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.