Alex Rodriguez figures he'll need all 20 days of rehabilitation games to prepare for his return to the New York Yankees.
He showed why Tuesday night.
The rusty third baseman went hitless in two at-bats for the Charleston RiverDogs in his first game since left hip surgery in January.
Rodriguez played three innings at third base for the Yankees Class-A affiliate and came out after he took a called strike three to end the third inning. He also grounded into a double play in the first.
"Look, I am as curious as you guys are to see how I am going to react. It's been a while since I was in competition," said before the game.
Rodriguez was tested quickly in the field when Rome's Kyle Wren opened the game with a bunt single to third. Rodriguez charged strongly and fielded it with his bare hand, but could not throw to first on time.
Rome shortstop Jose Peraza also bunted down the third base line in the second inning, but Rodriguez was too far back to make a play.
The three-time AL MVP has been working out at the Yankees' minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., since May.
He looked healthy and enthusiastic to begin his season. His swing in the batting cage was the same simple flick that's helped him to 647 career home runs. He took grounders at third next to Yankees teammate Eduardo Nunez, who's recovering from a left oblique strain. Nunez played shortstop and went 2 for 3.
Rodriguez and Nunez enjoyed lunch Tuesday before arriving at the ballpark.
"It's my first time" in South Carolina, Rodriguez said. "Great Southern hospitality so far."
Players from the RiverDogs and the Rome Braves lined the dugouts to watch Rodriguez work. It's the third straight season Rodriguez has spent time in the minors coming back from injuries.
Rodriguez has 20 days to rehab or the Yankees would have to put him back on the disabled list. Will he be back with the big club this season? "We're scheduled for that 20 days from now," he said.
Rodriguez would not comment about Major League Baseball's investigation into the now-closed Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic.
Rodriguez said it was likely he'd stay on to play here Wednesday night.
Rodriguez looked smooth in the field, grabbing everything hit his way. His throws to first were strong and on target. When he was done with grounders, Rodriguez signed autographs for fans gathered next to the RiverDogs dugout.
"Good luck to you, Alex," said Charleston resident Blanche Lloyd after getting a signed baseball.
Rodriguez and Nunez were in Charleston with Pat Roessler, the Yankees director of player development based in Tampa.
A-Rod hopes he can start having a positive impact on the Yankees after last year's disappointing season and his benching during the American League Championship Series.
"I've got to tell you," Rodriguez said at Riley Park. "I'm really, really excited. This probably has to be the hardest injury I've tried to overcome. It has to be the longest."