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After power dip, A-Rod expects cluster

After power dip, A-Rod expects cluster

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PHOENIX -- Alex Rodriguez said he doesn't think he's a home-run hitter and usually doesn't worry about hitting them, but he wanted to talk about his 592nd career homer on Tuesday night after the Yankees' 9-3 win over the D-backs.

The two-run bolt that Rodriguez parked in the left-field bleachers at Chase Field during the first inning off D-backs ace Dan Haren was his first since June 3. Later, he added an RBI single, seemingly putting an end to a 3-for-22 slump that had hounded him since his return from a sore right hip flexor a week ago.

The Yankees prevailed and A-Rod had three RBIs. He had only four RBIs for the month coming into the game, coupled with a homer and a .220 batting average. What, me worry?

"No, never," said Rodriguez, who has nine homers and 48 RBIs on the season. "I hit a lot of home runs. The one thing I do worry about is if I'm not making solid contact, then I'm not driving runners in. The columns I worry about are RBIs and wins. Home runs, for some reason ... I've never considered myself a home-run hitter, either."

For a non-home run hitter, Rodriguez is only eight away from rarefied company. Sometime this season, he'll become the seventh player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 600-homer plateau. The names on the list are some of the all-time greats: Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and Sammy Sosa (609). With Griffey's retirement, A-Rod has the most homers of any active player.

Tuesday night's homer gives him just four since May 19. And if his slow march to baseball eternity is bothering him, Rodriguez doesn't seem to be showing it.

"I'm focusing on getting wins and helping the team win," Rodriguez said. "But I'm getting close."

The game marked A-Rod's third consecutive night starting at third base, and manager Joe Girardi said he's intent on playing the slugger for a fourth straight day in Wednesday's series finale. After an off-day Thursday, the Yanks will play a three-game weekend set at Dodger Stadium. Since his team can't use the designated hitter in these National League cities, Rodriguez must play the field or not at all.

"I just want to get through this," Girardi said. "And then we get the DH back again."

A-Rod's bat looked like it was starting to come around on Monday night in a 10-4 Yankees loss. He launched a sixth-inning line-drive double into the right-center-field gap that scored Mark Teixeira, and in the eighth, he led off with a booming drive to right-center that was hauled down at the fence by D-backs center fielder Chris Young.

When asked about the power outage after that game, Rodriguez made a reporter rephrase the question several time before he responded.

"Ah, you're talking about power," Rodriguez said. "Power is something that comes and goes. You can hit five or six homers in a week. [On Monday], I was two inches away from hitting one. That's just the way it goes. I'm not worried about hitting home runs. I'm sure at the end of the year, I'm going to have exactly the number that I have every year. What I'm concerned with now is driving the ball and making good, solid contact every at bat."

The right-handed slugger hasn't had fewer than 30 homers or 100 RBIs in a single season since 1997, when he was with the Mariners. But last year, when he hit those precise numbers, Rodriguez missed the first 28 games of the season after undergoing surgery on the same hip that has been recently bothering him.

This year, Rodriguez missed only five games because of the injury, but he's averaging a homer for every 31 plate appearances. Rodriguez has hit as many as 57 homers in a season (2002) and as few as 23 (1997). He's the only player in Major League history to collect at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs 13 times in his career.

On Tuesday night, his two hits were line drives. He also walked in the Yanks' six-run eighth inning and scored one of those runs. On the home run off Haren, A-Rod said he got something he could handle.

"That's a pitch I was either grounding out to third base or maybe flying out to right," Rodriguez said. "But I put a pretty good swing on it."

Even so, A-Rod wasn't willing to say he's completely back.

"I will say this -- the last four or five days, every day has gotten a little better," Rodriguez said. "You know, I'm not out of the woods yet. I've got to keep working hard, do my pool work, come in and see [the trainer]. Every day is getting better."

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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