The New York Yankees come out of the All-Star break with three games in Fenway Park and a chance to shrink their six-game deficit to the division-leading Boston Red Sox. They are counting on injured players getting healthy to make a strong run in the second half. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez is getting stronger and closer to joining the Yankees for the first time this season although that will happen after the Red Sox series.
Rodriguez's rehab assignment officially ends on Sunday, and the Yankees expect him to join them in Texas on Monday, July 22. Rodriguez hit his second home run Thursday night, which is very good sign. Even better, though, is that he hit it to right field. In fact, Donnie Collins's post game report says that Rodriguez hit hard to the right side in three of his four at bats, indicating willingness and ability to go the other way. He had another drive caught at the right-field wall, one that would have reached the seats in Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez discussed his approach at the plate. MLB.com's Andrew Kapps quoted Rodriguez about it. Said Rodriguez,
"Anytime I can get the ball up in the air, especially center to right-center field, that's a good sign. I don't want rollers to short or third base, that's a bad sign. Anytime I get the ball in the air, that's what I've worked so hard for over the last five or six years with [Yankees hitting coach] Kevin Long."
Going to right means that Rodriguez is showing the patience and willingness to make solid contact where the ball is pitched. Even veterans can get too pull-happy when returning from a long layoff, but this apporach is exactly what Rodriguez needs to take. He has power to right field, and in Yankee Stadium and a few other ballparks in the league, right field is very inviting. This approach will lead to more hits and a few home runs the other way.
Rodriguez played the entire game at third base, but he had no plays and, therefore, no opportunities to test his hip while going after the ball. He also had no chance to test it running the bases or sliding. He has three more games this weekend to get and take advantage of those opportunities before joining the Yankees.
"I'm excited, but we can't get ahead of ourselves. We still have another big challenge, which is the last three days, and I just want to make sure I stay focused and continue to take one pitch at a time.... Over the last four or five days, I've showed signs of finding my swing. Overall, I feel better, and I just want to keep getting more athletic every day."
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