A-Rod feels at home as Yanks wrap Miami trip
South Florida native healthy, at ease as spring nears conclusion
MIAMI -- Alex Rodriguez heard some ribbing from the Marlins' bench as he interceded in a first-inning dispute at home plate on Monday, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi argued an interference call with home-plate umpire Laz Diaz.
Rodriguez was only putting his two cents in, Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen joked, because the Yankees third baseman wanted to go home early. And Rodriguez admitted that, as his enjoyable weekend homecoming comes to an end, that wouldn't have been all bad.
"Really, it's a dream come true," Rodriguez said. "Just as a great baseball fan, I love the game so much, and obviously I'm from South Florida. My family is from here.
"[These are] the streets where I grew up and learned how to play the game, right down the street at the Boys Club. To have this great stadium in this city is very exciting for the fans and the Marlins."
Rodriguez savored his long weekend in Miami, where he continues to make his offseason home, and had numerous friends, family members and acquaintances visiting for the Yankees' two exhibition games. He toured the ballpark earlier on Monday with his daughters, checking out the funky left-center-field home run sculpture, the fish tanks behind home plate and many of the park's other contemporary amenities.
Those in attendance on Monday also got to see a relaxed Rodriguez on display. He belted a long two-run double to center field in one of his three at-bats, scoring a run and driving in three total runs for the evening.
"It's going to be definitely a pitcher's park, no question about it," Rodriguez said. "It's spacious. It reminds me a little bit of Citi Field, just a little bit more forgiving down the lines."
Rodriguez's next-to-last Spring Training game of the year has the 36-year-old slugger feeling healthier than he did when camp ended last season, and the Yankees know it is vital to keep Rodriguez in such fashion.
"It would help everyone in the lineup every day if you have him swinging the bat," manager Joe Girardi said. "Alex is always going to be feared, I believe, just because of the type of player [he is], what he's done and what he's capable of doing. His health is the thing we really have to manage this year. If he's healthy, there's no doubt in my mind that he'll be extremely productive."
The designated hitter role, Rodriguez said, should help him keep a fresh body.
"There's no question in my mind that if I'm healthy and feeling good, I can do a lot of damage in the middle of the order to help our team win," Rodriguez said. "The key is to keep me healthy and keep me in the lineup to keep me productive."
Rodriguez will play in the Yankees' final spring game on Wednesday against the Mets in Tampa, Fla., and then it is off to the regular season, where he says he isn't setting numerical goals -- save for playing more than the 99 games he appeared in last year.
"I know I want him to play more than he did last year," Girardi said. "My target number of games is to keep him off the DL. That's how I think about it. Whatever number that is, that is.
"I can't tell you what each game is going to be like, how much running he's going to do each game, how he's bouncing back. He's another year older, there's no doubt about that. But how does his body respond this year, compared to last year, compared to two years ago? We're not really going to know."
The early results, however, have Rodriguez encouraged that this could be a bounce-back campaign to his familiar levels of 30 homers and 100 RBIs. The Yankees would sign up for that, guaranteed.
"I feel great. My body feels great," Rodriguez said. "I think overall I just feel like I have a better plan of attack for this season, and I just hope it works."