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06/22/10 3:23 AM ET

As hip heals, A-Rod coming around at plate

Yanks star slowly progressing with injury, recent slump

PHOENIX -- After Monday night's loss to the D-backs at Chase Field, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez still said he was taking it "one day at a time" as he rebounds from tendinitis of the right hip flexor that caused him to recently miss five games.

Rodriguez said he intends to be back at third base for Tuesday night's rematch, but he wasn't willing to commit himself beyond that. The defending World Series champions are on a six-game Interleague road trip through Arizona and Los Angeles. Since the Yanks can't use the designated hitter in these National League cities, Rodriguez must play the field or not at all.

"It's just one day at a time right now," he said after going 1-for-4 as the Yanks dropped a 10-4 decision. "I'm definitely feeling better. It's a slow process. I'll be back out there tomorrow and I'll tell you how I feel tomorrow. I hope I can start all six games on the trip, but I don't want to talk about best or worst or six. I'll definitely be out there tomorrow and then hopefully the next day."

If it's any consolation, A-Rod's bat looked like it was starting to come around on Monday night. Though he's just 3-for-22 with two doubles and a pair of RBIs in the six games since he returned last Wednesday against the Phillies, he hit the ball with some authority.

A-Rod launched a sixth-inning line-drive double into the right-center-field gap that scored Mark Teixeira. And in the eighth, he led off with a booming drive to right-center that was hauled down at the fence by D-backs center fielder Chris Young.

It's always a good sign when Rodriguez starts hitting the ball to right-center, Yanks manager Joe Girardi said, adding that he looked more comfortable at the plate than in previous games.

"His at-bats were good tonight," Girardi said. "Even in his first two at-bats, he just missed a couple of pitches. So I do sense he's getting more comfortable. The more at-bats he gets, the more his timing will come back. He works very hard at everything. The pitch away, he works at all that stuff. Obviously, when you're driving the ball the other way you're staying on the ball, and that's a good sign."

A-Rod has hit only three homers since May 19 and has been stuck on career homer No. 591 since June 3. The right-handed slugger hasn't had fewer than 30 homers or 100 RBIs in a season since 1997 for the Mariners. But right now, he has eight homers and 45 RBIs with the season only 10 games shy of the halfway mark.

The power outage hasn't bothered him, A-Rod said. He will continue to plod along, at some point becoming the seventh player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 600-homer mark. The leaders are Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and Sammy Sosa (609). With Griffey's retirement, A-Rod has the most homers of any active player.

"Power is something that comes and goes," he said. "You can hit five or six homers in a week. Today I was two inches away from hitting one. That's just the way it goes. I'm not worried about hitting home runs. I'm sure at the end of the year I'm going to have exactly the number that I have every year. What I'm concerned with now is driving the ball and making good solid contact every at-bat."

To that end, Rodriguez has spent multiple hours in the batting cage trying to find his swing. He believes that with continued hard work he'll battle his way out of this particular slump.

"It frustrating," A-Rod said. "I've been putting in some long hours with [batting coach Kevin] Long in the batting cages. We both feel like we're very close. On Sunday [against the Mets], I hit a ball hard down the third-base line and David Wright made a nice play on it. For the most part for me, the key has always been right-center. I'm just trying to battle the ball every night and swing at strikes."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.