Yankees’ general manger Brian Cashman had already made it quite clear that he wouldn’t be playing at third anymore when he signed third baseman Chase Headley to a four-year deal $52 million deal in mid-December, meaning that more than likely Rodriguez would be relegated permenently to the designated-hitter position.
With third base now not an option, unless something happens to Headley, A-Rod said that he would not be happy to just be a DH. And of course, the question still lingers as to whether or not Rodriguez will still be able to hit the way he used to when he was using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Granted he’s always been able to see the ball well, there’s no confusion there. He’s never admitted to using PEDs during his first seven seasons in the league with the Seattle Mariners. While that doesn’t mean he didn’t, it doesn’t prove he did either and back then he could still hit the long ball.
He played well enough in Seattle that he made the American League All-Star team four times. He was good enough to land what was, at the time, the most lucrative contract in MLB history. The Texas Rangers signed Rodriguez to a 10-year deal worth $252 million.
But then, the now fallen-from-grace superstar, was only 24-years old when he signed with the Rangers, the same time he now admits to have begun using PEDs. With Texas his home run totals went up (obviously) as he led the league in home runs all three seasons with the Rangers. He made three more All-Star teams and won the first of his three American League MVP awards.
The concern now is that with Rodriguez, who will turn 40 this July, there are no guarantees that he will be able to hit the same way he used to without PEDs and without the youth he had in Seattle.
However, there is still a chance that even if A-Rod can’t hold up in the DH position, he could end up playing some first base. Especially with Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira‘s injury history, it could be a win-win for Rodriguez and the Yankees.
He wouldn’t have to be a permenant DH for the next three seasons. He still has three years left on his contract with New York.
Yet, the move to first base also depends upon Rodriguez’s ability to learn a new position. This wouldn’t be his first time doing so which is a good starting point for the slugger. When he moved from the Rangers to the Yankees A-Rod, a former shortstop, made the move over to third base.
Although Rodriguez admitted that the move to third was not a simple one,
“Everything was hard about that,” Rodriguez said. “That was really difficult. I wasn’t very good at the beginning, but Graig [Nettles] helped out a lot, I talked to [Robin] Ventura and just did tons of early work.”
Early work is what A-Rod has already begun doing. He began his first base training on Friday, taking grounders and recieving throws for the first time.
How well Teixeira does as a tutor remains to be seen since it was Rodriguez’s first time out as a first baseman.
Six-time Gold Glove award winner at the hot corner, Eric Chavez, made a similar transition when he joined the Yankees after spending 13 seasons with the Oakland Athletics.
While Chavez made just 13 appearances at first base for the Yankees, he still knows what it is like to make the transition, mentioning that the hardest part was getting used to the different type of glove first baseman use.
Chavez, who is now retired and working as a special assistant to Cashman, believes that if A-Rod can learn to use the glove, he’ll be just fine.
“I never got comfortable with the first base glove,” Chavez said. “For some reason, it kind of threw my timing off, but he’s so athletic. If you can play shortstop, you can play any position on the field. As long as he’s comfortable with that glove, I don’t see it being any problem whatsoever.”
Girardi could tell that A-Rod was giving it his best shot but that he won’t be an ace at the position rifht away, saying,
“I think he’s trying to learn. I think he was paying attention and trying to learn. He’s never taken balls over there, he’s never seen what a bunt defense looks like from over there, and that’s going to take some time.”
It’s still unclear if A-Rod will make a suitable back-up for Teixeira at first, being that it was his first time out but he’s willing and able to learn so it may just be something that works out for both the Yankees and Rodriguez.