Published March 04, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. – Walking by Alex Rodriguez's locker, Reggie Jackson saw a crowd of reporters.
"Ask him if he's going to hit 1.000," Mr. October said.
A-Rod got his spring training season off to a perfect start.
Rodriguez homered on the first pitch he saw — from Roy Halladay, no less — and added an RBI double and single Sunday that led the New York Yankees over the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4.
"I'm just lucky that it was the first inning, that he's not quite warmed up yet," Rodriguez said. "He's probably going to be mad next time I face him. He's the greatest pitcher in our game."
Rodriguez, whose power numbers dropped during an injury filled season in 2011, hit an opposite-field solo homer to right in the first inning. He did not play Saturday in the Yankees' exhibition opener.
"It's better than striking out," Rodriguez said. "It's good to feel good and get off to a good start. Staying healthy is the most important thing, and I'm making an effort towards that."
The first at-bat homer after a long break is nothing new for Rodriguez, who hit a three-run drive on May 8, 2009, on the first pitch he saw from Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie. Rodriguez had been sidelined up until to that point after hip surgery.
"One of my big parts of my job this year is keeping him healthy and fresh," Yankees manger Joe Girardi said. "Three really good swings. Seeing him go to right field the first swing and then pull two balls just tells me that he feels explosive."
Rodriguez had just 16 homers and 62 RBIs in 99 games last season, a year in which the slugger had right knee surgery, a sprained left thumb and sore left shoulder.
"It was hit good," Halladay said. "It was one of those pitches (a sinker) I was trying to get in and left it over. Probably as center-cut as you can get."
Halladay allowed one run, two hits and struck out three in two innings. The two-time Cy Young Award winner, coming off a 19-6 season, struck out two to work out of a two-on, no-outs jam in the second inning.
"I was really happy with location. I was happy with the way I felt," Halladay said. "But just getting the regular arm slot I think is what I'm really trying to lock in right now. About 80 percent of the time it was good. So, I've got a little ways to go."
Hunter Pence hit a two-run homer for Philadelphia. He also connected Saturday against the Yankees.
Philadelphia is without first baseman Ryan Howard, being treated for an infection around his surgically repaired Achilles tendon. Howard will be in a walking boot for the next seven to 10 days, and there is no timetable for when he will resume an on-field rehabilitation program.
Freddy Garcia, bidding to make the Yankees' rotation, gave up two runs and four hits in two innings.
"You've got to fight for a spot," Garcia said. "I've got to do my job and go from there."
The Yankees' spring training home opener, which included pregame introductions of former stars like Jackson, Goose Gossage and Lou Piniella, was played with a gusty wind that partially ripped the American flag flying behind the center-field fence.
The crosswind from left-field corner toward right at a sustained 17 mph didn't impact Pence in the first when he connected on a two-run homer into the breeze.
Notes: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is scheduled to throw batting practice for the first time Monday and could pitch in a game next weekend. The 42-year-old, who will throw around eight innings during spring training games, said his preparation process is "right on track." ... Phillies RHP Jose Contreras (elbow surgery) is throwing batting practice. ... New York reliever Joba Chamberlain (elbow ligament replacement surgery) is set to add sliders to his bullpen sessions in a week. ... Joan Steinbrenner, the wife of former owner George Steinbrenner, was among the family members at the game. George Steinbrenner died in July 2010 at the age of 80.