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Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez homers in first at-bat for third consecutive game and falls single shy of cycle

Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson slams into the wall as the ball goes over, making it the third consecutive game that the Rays’ Sean Rodriguez has had a first at-bat home run.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson slams into the wall as the ball goes over, making it the third consecutive game that the Rays’ Sean Rodriguez has had a first at-bat home run.

TAMPA — INF/OF Sean Rodriguez, already off to a stellar spring training start, appeared headed for a special feat Friday against the Yankees.

Rodriguez, who homered in his first at-bat for the third straight game, followed with a triple and double in the Rays' 12-7 win at Steinbrenner Field, leaving him a single short of the cycle.

But with manager Joe Maddon having already decided to pull his starters after five innings in the field, Rodriguez left the game before he got a shot.

"I can be tough at times," Maddon said, smiling. "Despite what people think."

Rodriguez, 24, acquired from the Angels in September when LHP Scott Kazmir was traded, didn't mind at all, and said while numbers are nice, it's his approach and the "little things" that will go a long way in him potentially earning the second base job.

Plus, he said, he's running into a string of good luck.

"I'm getting good pitches to hit," said Rodriguez, who is 5-for-6 in the spring. "(The pitchers) are throwing right over the middle of the plate, missing their spots, and fortunately, I'm capitalizing on their mistakes."

Rodriguez's eventful day also included an interesting play in leftfield, where he may get more playing time in the spring — along with other outfield spots — to take advantage of his versatility. In the third inning, Yankees C Francisco Cervelli hit a ball in the left-center gap, with Rodriguez sliding to cut it off. But when he tried to get up and throw, the ball remained on the grass.

"I kind of rolled over on my wrist just for a second," he said. "My wrist went numb, and I thought it was still in the glove."

Despite the defensive hiccup, Rodriguez has turned some heads.

"It's early, but I really like what he's doing," Maddon said. "That's an understatement."

GAME DETAILS: Rodriguez wasn't the only Ray with a good day at the plate, as Maddon lauded the at-bats of Jason Bartlett (2-for-3, 3 RBIs), Reid Brignac (2-3, 3 RBIs) and Elliot Johnson (2-for-3). Tampa Bay (2-1) took a 7-0 lead, but the Yankees tagged RHP Mike Ekstrom for five runs and pulled within one in the seventh. … LHP R.J. Swindle, left the game in the eighth inning with a strain in his right side, and there's no timetable for his return.

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price said he felt good with his first spring outing of the year — 12/3 innings, no runs, two hits — except for the fact it took him 42 pitches.

"That's about eight pitches an out again," he said. "But I'm not going to harp on that right now. It's tough; some of those balls hitters are going to put in play in a couple weeks, so I'll take it."

Maddon liked what he saw, pointing out how Price was close to the plate and used his offspeed pitches well. "I thought he looked really good," Maddon said.

MISCELLANY: Today's home game against the Red Sox is sold out. RHP Andy Sonnanstine will start, with RHP Wade Davis to follow. … OF Desmond Jennings (sore left elbow) didn't make the trip to Tampa. … Maddon said LHP J.P. Howell will likely pitch in his first exhibition game in the middle of the month. The plan is for him to make around six appearances. … INF Ben Zobrist may start getting some work in rightfield next week. … Maddon said INF Willy Aybar (left wrist) is feeling better but still just taking light swings.

Tampa Bay Rays' Sean Rodriguez homers in first at-bat for third consecutive game and falls single shy of cycle 03/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 5, 2010 11:21pm]

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