Peace in play for A-Rod

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- In the maelstrom that is his life there is one place Alex Rodriguez looks at peace.

The four-by-six foot batter's box which sits six inches from home plate.

As soon as Rodriguez emerged from the dugout yesterday afternoon headed for the on-deck circle a fan yelled: "Hey A-Rod, where's your cousin?"

There were catcalls about Madonna, who the New York Yankees third baseman has been dating and other insults.

Rodriguez walked in the first facing Brett Cecil, but in the fourth he hit a 2-2 pitch from Ricky Romero for a two-run homer. The majority of the 5,014 fans at Dunedin Stadium stood to hail him, after being ready to bury him.

"That's the only way he will quiet them down," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He's really been going through it a long time."

The Yanks have won just one of five post-season series since he arrived in 2003. Rodriguez has hit .200 (15-for-75) with three homers and six RBIs in the four series losses.

He has been booed as the highest-paid player, hooted at because he's arrogant and hounded because he's not Derek Jeter.

The previous 17 days, since Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated broke the news that he was one of the players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, have been a hurricane of a different level.

All the time Rodriguez said everything would be OK when he got back on the field. And he found peace and cheers in the fourth.

"Once the game starts, it's hard to focus on standing ovations or boos," Rodriguez said. "You're trying to do your job. I didn't see or hear anything that was bad at all."

Rodriguez did a an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons after the SI story and then told a different yarn last week at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, bringing his cousin into the mix and asking fans to believe he took twice-a-month injections for six-month cycles for three years and did not know what he was taking.

"I know how to play the game," Rodriguez said. "I hope this was the start of something really special for this year. I feel really good about our team."

He should.

The Yanks managed to add C.C. Sabathia (a seven-year, $161-million US deal), A.J. Burnett (five years, $82.5 million) first baseman Mark Teixeira (eight years, $180 million) and still spend less than in 2008 as they search for their first World Series since 2000.

Expected to meet with MLB investigators along with his lawyers this week to inquire about his positive test, Rodriguez enters the season with 553 career homers.

He sits 12th on the all-time list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey (611), Sammy Sosa (609) Frank Robinson (586), Mark McGwire (583) Harmon Killebrew (573), Rafael Palmeiro (569) and Reggie Jackson (563).

But if Bonds was given a rough ride by hecklers, Rodriguez's will be like white water rafting on the busted lid of a garbage pail.

"I don't know why they don't release the other 103 names and have the industry take a hit for a week," a scout said yesterday. "Until now, A-Rod, one of 104 guys, is taking the hit for everybody. And we know he's not the only one."

This is Rodriguez's 16th season in the majors.

"It's been playing for more than a decade," Rodriguez said of being in the limelight. "I felt really relaxed. This is what I get paid to do. Maybe I'm just so used to it."

Rodriguez, who will play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, has yet to hear the wrath of the Yankee Stadium fans .

Pity him should he collide with Jeter while breaking up a double play in the WBC.


Videos

Photos