A-Rod: Fans' reaction "very mild"

25

February

Alex Rodriguez said he felt very relaxed Wednesday in his first game since admitting he used performance enhancing drugs.

Fans at Dunedin Stadium gave him a mixed reaction, from a chorus of boos and clever one-liners like "Let's go A-Roid." But Rodriguez ended up having the last laugh, getting a more favorable response as the game wore on, including a large ovation (many Yankees fans stood) after his two-run homer in the fourth.

Rodriguez went 1-for-1 with the homer and two walks.

"I thought the fans were ok, actually," Rodriguez said. "I'd like to invite a bunch of them to Fenway this summer."

Apparently he heeded the advice of friend and former Yankee legend Reggie Jackson, who told Rodriguez at dinner Tuesday night to just "hit the baseball, and hit it when it counts." It was a "message" Jackson said he was delivering for co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner.

"He says, 'You deliver this message,'" Jackson recalled Steinbrenner telling him "sternly." "'You tell him to hit the damn ball and hit it when it counts.' That's really the most important thing (Rodriguez) can do."

Update 2:01 pm. Alex Rodriguez turned some pre-at bat boos to a loud ovation after hitting a two-run homer in the top of the fourth. The blast, which came off Jays lefty Ricky Romero, gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead.

Rodriguez, seemingly tuning out any of the clever one-liners like "Hey, A-Roid," is now 1-for-1 with a walk and homer. Many fans - mostly Yankees fans - stood in giving Rodriguez a good ovation before he walked back into the dugout.

Update 2:22 pm Rodriguez walks on four pitches in his third, and final, at-bat of the game. As he walked to the plate, Rodriguez's reception was 70-30 of cheers vs boos. And he finished the day 1-for-1 with two walks and a two-run homer.

The Yankees are up 6-1, getting a solid performance from RHP Brett Tomko, A-Rod, with Jeter getting a single, too.

***

Many wondered how Alex Rodriguez would be received today in his first game since admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez was prepared for the worst. Commissioner Bud Selig hoped everything would go "smoothly," but didn't know what to expect.

Turns out, there was no need to read the riot act.

Other than a chorus of boos, and some clever one-liners delivered by fans during his at-bats, Rodriguez's reception hasn't been over the top.

When Rodriguez came to the plate in the first inning at Dunedin Stadium - where the Yankees faced the Jays - there were plenty of cheers, and also plenty of boos. As Rodriguez was on-deck, a fan yelled, "Where's your cousin?" (Rodriguez has said his cousin injected him with a banned substance from 2001-2003).

During Rodriguez's first at bat- which was a walk - fans chirped in with quick one-liners like, "How's Madonna?" and "Let's go A-Roid!" While another fan yelled, "A-Rod, you're the best!"  The one that drew the most laughs was when a fan yelled "Madonna!" right when a pitch was crossing the plate. Rodriguez didn't appear to flinch.

There weren't any Anti-A-Rod signs yet, but a fan was spotted wearing an "A-Fraud" shirt on the concourse.

During pre-game Rodriguez had received a mostly normal reception. In warm-ups, fans - mostly Yankee ones - lined the fence, begging for autographs as Rodriguez played catch. He'd smile, and toss a ball to some kids.

No angry chants. No anti-A-Rod signs. Mostly support that point.

During batting practice, fans lined the backstop, yelling encouraging words like, "It's ok, A-Rod," and "60 homers this year!

The only bit of negativity early on was when Rodriguez's name was announced during the starting lineups. There was a good bit of cheers, but also a smattering of boos. But that's par for the course when he plays a road game.

Rodriguez will play Thursday when the Yankees host the Rays. We'll see if Rays fans react differently.

*As for news that will be of interest to Rays fans, Yankees manager Joe Girardi gave hints the rotation could be Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Pettitte and Chamberlain. Girardi said the plan is for Chamberlain to have 30 starts, which should quiet the talk of him in the bullpen.

-- JOE SMITH

joesmith@sptimes.com

[Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 12:44am]

    

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