A-Rod excited about return to Bronx
Third baseman greeted with applause before first at-bat
NEW YORK -- For Alex Rodriguez, Friday night's debut at the new Yankee Stadium took place hours before he stepped into the batter's box.
"It's amazing," Rodriguez said, smiling. "I've never seen anything like it. I feel like I've only seen five percent of it, which is probably accurate. But at some point I'm going to take two or three hours to walk this whole place."
Rodriguez did a good job covering some turf on Friday afternoon. Although he didn't get a big hit or send one over the fences, he was pleased with his at-bats -- going 0-for-1 with four walks -- and the Yankees' 5-4 walk-off win.
"For me, it's taking pitches, working the count, seeing as many pitches as I can," he said. "[It] is always a huge bonus."
Manager Joe Girardi was equally impressed with A-Rod's ability to stay within himself and accept his walks.
"For the most part, he was pretty patient the whole night," Girardi said. "He took what they gave him; he didn't try to do too much. And I'm sure there was a little bit of anxiousness coming home. He was probably excited to play in front of his home crowd."
And the 43,856 fans at the Stadium showed their support with a smattering of applause during Rodriguez's first at-bat.
"The reception was great," Rodriguez said. "Once you get in a game, you are so excited to be playing baseball, and I'm having such a good time out there. But the reception, I thought, went very well."
Save for the boos after Rodriguez's bases-loaded strikeout, on a slider that he felt was outside the zone, the Bronx faithful welcomed No. 13 with open arms.
Rodriguez missed 28 games this season while recovering from right hip surgery on March 9. Since he last played in New York, in September, he has admitted to using performance-enhancing substances while with the Texas Rangers.
Prior to the game, A-Rod wasn't sure what kind of reaction to expect from the fans. Postgame, he was all smiles.
"Overall, people have been very gracious," he said.
Girardi was confident prior to the game that New York would welcome A-Rod back.
"I think they will rally around him," Girardi said. "New York fans have always been great fans, and they've always been fans that have given people second chances. Fans that have given people third chances, too. So I expect a pretty warm welcome for A-Rod."
And on a night Rodriguez dubbed his Opening Day, there was no better way to move forward than to simply play some good Yankee baseball.
"I think '07 was a year where, if I can follow that blueprint, I'm going to be fine," Rodriguez said. "Focus on baseball and only baseball, and that's exactly where I am right now. I'm having a good time."
Brittany Ghiroli is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.