A-Rod's wild ride begins with a bang

Gordon Edes
Yahoo! Sports

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Naturally (presumably in every sense of the word), Alex Rodriguez hit a home run in the New York Yankees' first exhibition game of the spring on Wednesday afternoon.

"This is what I do – I know how to play baseball," said Rodriguez, who walked in his first at-bat, then hit a home run over the left-center field fence off Toronto Blue Jays rookie left-hander Ricky Romero in the Yankees' 6-1 win. "I just hope this is the start of something special for this year. I feel really good about our team.''

Rodriguez, who had heard a mix of boos and cheers and the predictable catcalls ("A-Rod, where's your cousin?'' "Madonna!") on his first at-bat, circled the bases to a standing ovation from the majority of the 5,014 in Dunedin Stadium, where there was not an "A-Roid" sign in sight, though one fan was spotted wearing an "A-Fraud" T-shirt.

But Rodriguez's home run was overshadowed by his departure. The New York Post spotted him being picked up in a burgundy SUV by Yuri Sucart, the cousin who has been identified as the person Rodriguez claimed had injected him with "boli,'' the street name for the steroid Primobolan, over a three-year period from 2001-03. Sucart has not spoken with reporters since he was named in connection with Rodriguez's steroid use.

It was a brazen act, under the circumstances, for Rodriguez, who is still waiting to be questioned by Major League Baseball investigators in connection with his steroid use. That interview could take place any day.

The Yankees' third baseman had braced for a much rougher reception in his first game since being exposed as a steroid user. But with Yankee fans well represented and an abundance of well-mannered Canadians, Rodriguez came away pleasantly surprised.

"I thought the fans were OK,'' he said. "I'd like to invite a bunch of them to Fenway this season.

"You've got to understand, it's been a decade like that [of being booed]. Today was very mild.''

Rodriguez also walked in his final at-bat before being replaced before the bottom of the fifth by Kevin Russo, a non-roster player, No. 76 in your program.

After meeting for a few minutes with reporters outside the visitors' clubhouse, Rodriguez, wearing a stylish red and black sweatsuit, jogged to a fence where fans eagerly held up photos and pads and baseballs for him to sign.

"I'm just excited to be playing baseball,'' he said. "Everything else is confusing, but baseball is what I feel best and is what I do and what I get paid to do. I'm just happy to be doing it again.''

Rodriguez said he'd had dinner the night before with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who was here in his capacity as a special adviser. With 563 home runs, Jackson ranks 11th all-time, 10 homers ahead of A-Rod, who is 12th.

"I think Reggie was booing the loudest,'' Rodriguez cracked.

Jackson did tell reporters he was "disappointed" when he learned of A-Rod's steroids use.

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