A-Rod takes first steps back onto field

A-Rod takes first steps back onto field

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez cut a familiar presence as he moved between stations at the Yankees' Minor League complex on Monday, taking his first steps on a baseball field since having right hip surgery last month.

Returning from weeks of rehab following the March 9 procedure in Vail, Colo., Rodriguez completed a 48-minute on-field workout at the Yankees' Himes Avenue training complex, thoroughly enjoying his escape to sun-splashed Florida.

"Everything feels pretty good," Rodriguez said. "It's just good to be back on a field with a glove and spikes and a uniform. It's been a while."

Wearing pinstriped pants, a Yankees cap and a white Nike shirt with "ARod" sewn into the left sleeve, Rodriguez went through stretching exercises, light running and played catch on Field 4 against the backdrop of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Raymond James Stadium.

A-Rod fielded 40 soft ground balls hit by Yankees director of player development Pat Roessler, tossing them to a waiting glove on the mound. At one point during the five-minute fielding session, Rodriguez smiled and asked Roessler, "You keeping count of these?"

"You bet I am," Roessler responded.

Moving to the enclosed batting cages, Rodriguez took 12 one-handed swings and 24 two-handed swings off a tee, hitting most of the balls the other way. Rodriguez then hit 42 moving baseballs in soft toss, saying he "felt great" before completing the workout with light running.

"It feels good to not have snow everywhere," Rodriguez said. "There's sunshine. I can see why guys go train in Colorado though, from a cardiovascular point of view. I feel pretty good."

A-Rod easily became the main attraction at the sleepy complex, which also hosted an extended Spring Training game between the Yankees and Phillies. One Philadelphia farmhand pressed up against a chain-link fence to see Rodriguez, eagerly snapping photos with his cell phone and showing them to a teammate.

The Yankees have said that they expect Rodriguez back by May 15, but if he does not experience any setbacks, it could be sooner than that. Rodriguez said that he could not circle a date that he would play in a Minor League game, but he guessed he might within seven to 10 days.

"It's my first day," Rodriguez said. "I want to see how I wake up in the morning, and I've got some more stuff to do later on tonight. I don't want to jump the gun. In the next several days, I'll have a better indication."

Rodriguez had not spoken to reporters since deciding to have the surgery, opting for an "intermediate" procedure that would repair a torn labrum, but require him to have another surgery after the season.

The complete surgery would have kept him out until August, and Rodriguez said that the riskier procedure of "patching" his hip to get through the year is worth it.

"The full surgery was almost scheduled," Rodriguez said. "It was very close. Ownership was very supportive and basically gave me all my options. I just felt that the intermediate surgery was the best for our team and the best for me. It's a risk that I'm willing to take. We've got a very special team, and I want to help the team win."

Because of the surgery, Rodriguez said that he will have to make alterations to his typically strenuous pregame preparation.

"The big thing that we've talked about is really monitoring my work," Rodriguez said. "We don't want to go overboard. We're talking about limiting my practice swings and limiting the workload that I like to do between games -- even sometimes missing batting practice two or three times a week and just strap it on and play, which is fine."

Rodriguez attended the Yankees' game on Monday against the Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and he made the rounds in the clubhouse, shaking hands and offering hugs. It was the first time he has seen his teammates since leaving for the World Baseball Classic on March 1.

"It was great to see him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I'm going to try and stop by to see him work tomorrow [in Tampa]. He's in great spirits; he's happy about where he's at in his rehab, and so are we.

"He talked about being so excited to get back, and how much he missed us. We've missed him, too. We're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel."

Rodriguez admitted being fearful when he heard the first diagnosis. Initially, the Yankees had expected to send A-Rod to Colorado to have a cyst drained, which quickly became a much more complicated procedure.

"It's obviously very scary," Rodriguez said. "Anytime you hear a 'hip injury,' you think of Bo Jackson. You think of some pretty scary things. I was fortunate to have the greatest doctor in the world in Dr. [Marc] Philippon in Vail execute a good surgery, and hopefully everything works out. I'm very blessed so far."

Rodriguez said that he has caught the late innings of the Yankees' games on the West Coast, but that it has been "tough to watch." He said that the long days of workouts under Philippon's supervision may have benefits beyond getting back on the field.

"In a funny way, Colorado has been unbelievable," Rodriguez said. "It's been a blessing in disguise. Not only did I go down there to get my hip fixed, but I also got an opportunity to relax and take a time out to rethink, reevaluate and refocus my career and what's important. It also gives you an opportunity to cut some of the fat. I understand my responsibility, and I'm excited to face the challenge."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.