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Baseball notebook: Alex Rodriguez singles in return to Yankees lineup

Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez singles during the first inning against the Phillies Wednesday.Kim Klement/USA Today

Alex Rodriguez lined a single to left in his return to the Yankees’ lineup after an absence of 524 days. He finished 1 for 2 with a walk in a 3-1 spring training loss to the Phillies Wednesday in Tampa, another step forward as he tries to resume his drug-scarred career.

A-Rod was greeted by a 10-second mix of boos and cheers from the crowd of 9,673 at Steinbrenner Field on a sunny, 80-degree afternoon. Rodriguez had not played since September 2013, four months before an arbitrator said he must serve a one-year suspension imposed for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract.


‘‘Once you hit rock bottom, any time you hear a few cheers these days is a pleasant surprise,’’ he said.

He wore the Yankees’ traditional white uniform with pinstripes for the team’s exhibition season home opener. Rodriguez swung at the first four of 10 pitches he saw in three plate appearances. Batting second as New York’s designated hitter, he swung past a pair of 91 m.p.h. pitches from Philadelphia’s Kevin Slowey in the first.

‘‘I felt like I was swinging under water,’’ he said. ‘‘I was like, man, it’s been a long time.’’

He lined a soft single to left on an 89 m.p.h. 0-2 offering that was over the plate, ran to first, handed his batting gloves to coach Tony Pena and smiled widely.

‘‘It’s probably the first spring training game in a long time that he’s been a little anxious,’’ Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

When Rodriguez came up again in the third, he grounded a first-pitch 96 m.p.h. fastball from Paul Clemens to shortstop for an inning-ending forceout. He walked on a full count in the sixth against Ethan Martin, loading the bases with no outs and the Yankees trailing, 2-0.

He has a little more than a month to show he should be in the lineup when the Yankees open their season at home against Toronto on April 6.


‘‘It’s going to take two or three weeks for me to kind of get a gauge where I am,’’ Rodriguez said.

At Sarasota, Fla., Matt Wieters and Manny Machado each were hitless in three at-bats in their first game since their seasons were cut short by injuries last year, and the Orioles lost to the Tigers, 5-4. Catcher Wieters had Tommy John surgery in June and third baseman Machado underwent knee surgery in August.

Machado played seven innings and made a neat backhand play, throwing out Hernan Perez from foul ground in the fourth inning. He also made a throwing error.

Wieters served as Baltimore’s designated hitter and was removed after his third at-bat. He expects to catch on March 17 and hopes to be ready for the season opener.

Wright apologizes

Mets captain David Wright apologized for scolding pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard Tuesday while reporters were nearby. Wright got on Syndergaard for eating lunch in the clubhouse during an intrasquad game . . . Mets infielder Daniel Murphy says he disagrees with the ‘‘lifestyle’’ of people who are gay. The Mets hosted Billy Bean, a former major leaguer who came out after retiring and is MLB’s first ambassador for inclusion, to talk at spring training. ‘‘We love the people. We disagree [with] the lifestyle,’’ Murphy told NJ.com.

Gary Palumbo, a 39-year-old Mets fan from New Hampshire, paid to have a billboard with the message ‘‘Fred, Jeff & Saul, Ya Gotta Leave,’’ erected on Interstate 95, about eight miles north of Tradition Field, the Mets spring home. The message is aimed at owner Fred Wilpon, president Saul Katz, and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon. The Mets last made the playoffs in 2006


Surgery for Hanrahan

The Tigers released Joel Hanrahan from a minor league contract and said the righthander will have his second Tommy John surgery on March 18. Hanrahan had his right elbow ligament replaced in May 2013 while with the Red Sox, when he also had his right flexor tendon repaired . . . Ex-Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka made the first start of his comeback in Japan. After eight seasons in Major League Baseball, Matsuzaka is looking to rebuild his career with the Softbank Hawks of Japan’s Pacific League. The 34-year-old righthander struck out two Hanshin Tigers while giving up four hits over three scoreless innings in his first start of the exhibition season.

Rays choose Cobb

The Rays selected righthander Alex Cobb as their Opening Day starter . . . Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he expects shortstop Jimmy Rollins to be his leadoff hitter this season. LA acquired Rollins in a trade with the Phillies Dec. 19 . . . Braves starter Mike Minor was scratched from a scheduled start after experiencing tightness in his left shoulder.

Alex Johnson dead

Alex Johnson, who won the American League batting title with the then-California Angels in 1970, has died. He was 72. Alex Johnson Jr. said his father died Saturday of complications from prostate cancer. The elder Johnson, a Detroit native, played for eight teams in his 13-year career. He won the AL batting crown in 1970 as a member of the Angels, edging the Red Sox’ Carl Yastrzemski, .3289 to .3286.


Johnson had 78 home runs, 525 RBIs and a .288 average over his career. His final season was in 1976 with the Tigers when he had six homers, 45 RBIs and a .268 average in 125 games. He also played for the Phillies, Cardinals, Reds, Indians, Rangers, and Yankees.