VIERA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-3 as the designated hitter for Class A Advanced Tampa in the fourth game of his Minor League rehab assignment, a relatively uneventful 2-1 Tampa Yankees win on Sunday at Space Coast Stadium.
"It was a fun day out there," Rodriguez said afterward.
Rodriguez said his first rehab game at DH was "just part of the program." The injured Yankees third baseman will take Monday off and, if the weather allows, get back at third base for Tampa on Tuesday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field against the Dunedin Blue Jays.
A day after saying his defense was a long way from catching up to his hitting, Rodriguez lined out to the Brevard County shortstop, popped out in foul territory and grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. A-Rod said he wasn't frustrated that his schedule had him taking a day off from the field, as he worked out at third base before the game and planned to work out again after leaving in the sixth inning.
"The program's the program. We set that four or five days back," Rodriguez said. "We're going to stick with the program no matter what. It's part of the progression."
But for a player who didn't go through a normal Spring Training routine, the progression is slow. While Derek Jeter jumped into his first rehab game with Triple-A Scranton and played five full innings at shortstop, Rodriguez has yet to play more than three innings of defense on back-to-back days.
Not that Rodriguez is frustrated with his recovery. When he started out his rehab assignment in Charleston, S.C., he said it felt as if it were March 1 in a normal season.
"If that was March 1, this is like March 5," Rodriguez said. "There's no frustration March 5.
"It's going to get slower. There's no frustration here. Obviously you want to get back to New York as soon as possible, but there's a process. You've got to be realistic."
That probably means Rodriguez will need somewhere close to the full 20 days he's allowed to play out his rehab assignment. Tampa Yankees manager Luis Sojo said before Sunday's game that A-Rod mostly just needs to get his legs back underneath him to get back into the kind of baseball shape he's said only games can foster.
That said, Sojo believes Rodriguez is moving in the right direction.
"I know he's going to put his work in. Alex is a hard worker. He's not that far away, to be honest with you," Sojo said. "Things are going to be OK. I told him to take your time. He's been so long in the big leagues. He knows what it takes to get ready."
For the second day in a row, Rodriguez had to deal with an inside pitch. On Sunday, a Brevard County right-hander let loose a fastball that sailed not too far away from Rodriguez's head. A-Rod quipped that the pitch wasn't that close; his reaction was just slow.
"It has been nine months," Rodriguez said jokingly.
Rodriguez was also sporting a nasty bruise from Saturday's game, the result of Cody Scarpetta's errant curveball that caught him in the IT band, just below his surgically repaired left hip.
"There's your IT band," A-Rod said, pulling up his shorts to show the baseball-sized bruise. "That's pretty impressive. I told you, the IT band's no joke."