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05/25/09 7:20 PM ET
A-Rod finds rhythm at former park
No homers, but plenty of hits, in return to Rangers Ballpark
By Daniel Paulling / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Alex Rodriguez returned to his former ballpark hitting .189. After the Yankees crushed the Rangers, 11-1, on Monday, Rodriguez boosted his average by 70 points, to .259, with a 5-for-5 day. "I've hit a lot of balls right at people, but today was a good time," Rodriguez said. "I'm going out there and letting the ball come to me. I know what I'm capable of doing." Rodriguez's five-hit afternoon tied a career high the three-time American League Most Valuable Player has reached five times. He had just 10 hits, including seven home runs, entering Monday. Rodriguez looks like he's in midseason form after 17 games, and how quickly he has reached that level has impressed Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long. "You need so many at-bats to get acclimated," Long said. "I expected him to be a little worse when he came in. You're seeing a guy staying on his back side and really getting his hips incorporated into his swing. "He's a force. When he's right, he's the best in the game." Rodriguez missed all but four games in Spring Training and underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right hip on March 9. Rodriguez returned to the Yankees on May 8, and they are 13-4 since then. Rangers fans greeted Rodriguez with a chorus of boos when he stepped onto the field to stretch before the game, when lineups were introduced and during all five of his at-bats. "He looked good," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He didn't try to do too much. He's always a dangerous hitter. You're thinking, 'Uh, oh -- he's really getting going.'" The Yankees trace Rodriguez's strong afternoon to a few sources. "He's been under control," Long said. "He's been great with his approach and great with his demeanor. He got back to his mechanics." Long believes that Rodriguez is continuing to grow as a hitter and that he looks the best he has with Long as his coach. And he thinks Rodriguez is only going to keep getting better. Mark Teixeira, who has been hitting much better since Rodriguez returned to the Yankees' lineup, said Rodriguez has hit better recently upon receiving better pitches to hit. But Teixeira has also noticed he's been getting more fastballs with Rodriguez protecting him in the lineup. The Rangers spent much of Monday avoiding questions about Rodriguez, who played three seasons for them. Rangers manager Ron Washington said before the game that he didn't know what type of reception to expect for Rodriguez. When pressed, Washington said that he expected there to be as many fans for Rodriguez as against him. "I still think I have a long ways to go," Rodriguez said. "Today was a good day, but I feel like there's a lot of room for improvement."
Daniel Paulling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.