A-Rod takes his cuts in first rehab game

A-Rod takes his cuts in first rehab game

TAMPA -- Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-6 with a home run and two walks in his first rehab game since March 9 surgery, ran the bases at half-speed and experienced no setbacks, a good sign the Yankees third baseman is on track -- if not ahead of schedule -- for his May 15 return to the Major Leagues.

"It's been a long time," Rodriguez said after the intrasquad game held at the Yankees' Minor League training complex on Thursday. "It feels good to be in the box and see some professional pitching."

Rodriguez was originally given a timetable of 6-9 weeks for his return from surgery to repair a right labral hip tear, and he is doing so well that Dr. Marc Philippon, who performed the procedure, said Rodriguez may be able to return as early as May 8.

On Thursday morning, Rodriguez was projected to get about five at-bats as a designated hitter but ended up taking eight trips to the plate. He took a short batting practice on an adjacent field prior to the 11 a.m. ET game, and then returned to the field afterward for an additional 20 minutes in the cage.

After jogging in the outfield for about 15 minutes, Rodriguez went inside the complex for an additional workout.

Rodriguez was hitless through five plate appearances before he swung at the first pitch he saw from Minor League pitcher Jose Ramirez in the third inning and drove it over the wall in left-center field. He jogged to first base and returned to the dugout.

Rodriguez fanned on six pitches in the top of the first inning with runners at the corners. In the bottom of the same frame, he flew out to deep center, and jogged half-speed to second base.

After a second-inning flyout to right field, Rodriguez continued to run the bases, albeit at half-speed. He struck out looking in his fourth at-bat and walked in both his fifth and seventh plate appearances, sandwiching the long ball in between.

"It's the first day," said Rodriguez, who reported to Tampa on April 13 to begin his rehab. "It just feels good to actually execute the swing and track some pitches. I think I saw about 30 pitches today and that felt pretty good. Today's the first step, tomorrow's another."

Rodriguez is scheduled to travel to Bradenton, Fla., for a Friday afternoon extended Spring Training game at the Pittsburgh Pirates' complex, during which he'll continue to swing freely and run the bases.

When asked if he knew a time frame for his return, Rodriguez answered, "I don't know ... hopefully soon." He added that he'll begin to run the bases at "100 percent" and "make some good turns" in the next few days, and said he believes the biggest hurdle will be sliding in game situations-- he's already practiced on a special mat.

"I think the last thing I'm going to do here before I leave is sliding," he said. "Sliding, I think I have the most reservations about ... but everything else, we're on schedule."

The only thing to darken Rodriguez's breakthrough Thursday was the New York Daily News story citing excerpts from Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts' upcoming book, "A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez."

The book alleges Rodriguez used performance-enhancing drugs after 2003 and cites a former high school teammate at Westminster Christian in Miami, who said Rodriguez was on steroids.

Rodriguez, who addressed his alleged use in a news conference during Spring Training in February, declined to comment on the book.

"I'm not going there," he said simply. "I'm just so excited to be back on the field and playing baseball. My team's won two games [in Detroit]. Hopefully I can come back and help them win some more."

New York manager Joe Girardi said Rodriguez would bat cleanup as soon as he returns to the Yankees. New York has had little success in shoring up the holes -- both at third and in the lineup -- with journeyman Cody Ransom and fill-ins Angel Berroa and Ramiro Pena.

Ransom hit just .180 (9-for-50) with New York before landing on the 60-day disabled list with a right quadriceps injury on April 24. Berroa and Pena have combined for seven hits in Rodriguez's absence, all of them singles.

Dawn Klemish is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.