ST. PETERSBURG -- It was not surprising, even in his later years, for George M. Steinbrenner to be waiting in the manager's office when the Yankees would come off the diamond following games at Tropicana Field.

The trip to St. Petersburg was an easy one for "The Boss" from his Tampa, Fla., home, and Steinbrenner always relished victories over the Rays, whom he viewed as competition. That meant he took losses especially hard as well.

"I think it was important to Mr. Steinbrenner, because this was where he lived," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He took these games very serious, like any other game -- it's not like he ever didn't take a game serious. They meant something to him in Spring Training, too."

The Rays honored Steinbrenner -- who passed away July 13 at the age of 80 -- with a moment of silence and a brief ceremony before Friday's game at Tropicana Field, the Yankees' first to St. Petersburg since losing the longtime chairperson and principal owner.

Steinbrenner was acknowledged for his many contributions to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, which included foundations to help youngsters and build the community. He was also a well-known supporter of police officers and firefighters in the area.

"He would pop in every once in a while when we played here," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "Not so much recently, [but] it's still weird. It's not too long ago that he passed away."

Girardi said that he hopes to speak with several members of the Steinbrenner family while the team is in the area, and that Friday's pregame ceremony was "a great gesture" on the Rays' part.

"We know that he's with us," Girardi said.

Posada returns for showdown with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Yankees catcher Jorge Posada returned to the team's lineup Friday as the club opened a three-game series with the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Posada, 38, had been forced from the lineup Tuesday by a cyst behind his left knee, which affected him while squatting. Posada served as the DH on Wednesday in Cleveland but rested on Thursday.

"I checked with him when he came in and he said he was ready to catch," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Posada said that the cyst issue first surfaced in 2006, but that he is able to manage it through heat and ice therapy.

With Posada behind the plate, Girardi elected to start rookie Colin Curtis as the designated hitter. Curtis went 2-for-4 with three runs scored in New York's 11-4 victory over the Indians on Thursday.

"I like the way he's swinging the bat," Girardi said.

Fiery A-Rod remains one shy of 600

ST. PETERSBURG -- A change in venue wasn't necessarily the cure for Alex Rodriguez's personal power outage.

Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with a strikeout and two foul-outs in the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field on Friday and showed perhaps the most animated outbursts during his pursuit of a milestone 600th home run, barking at home-plate umpire Tim Welke during a sixth-inning plate appearance.

"I don't think [the frustration is] with his at-bats," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "This is a game that you're trying to grind out. We understand that these aren't end-of-the-world games, but these are important games in our division. We're trying to win a series, and after this series, there is a lot of baseball left."

Rodriguez left the ballpark without speaking to reporters. His ninth-inning foul-out against closer Rafael Soriano marked Rodriguez's 34th homerless at-bat and 38th homerless plate appearance since he hit No. 599 on July 22 off the Royals' Robinson Tejeda.

That stretch is longer than any of Rodriguez's six predecessors needed to make the jump from 599 home runs to 600. Willie Mays held the previously longest wait at 21 at-bats.

A-Rod owns 43 previous home runs against Tampa Bay pitchers, including four homers in his past 10 games against the Rays. He has hit 21 home runs in 77 games at Tropicana Field.

Worth noting

Andy Pettitte (strained left groin) had "another good work day" on Friday, according to Joe Girardi, at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla. He may be able to join the Yankees when they return to New York. ... Alfredo Aceves' (strained lower back) next step will be determined on Sunday or Monday, when the Yankees discuss how many more rehab appearances he might need. ... Robinson Cano has 11 homers off left-handed pitching this season, tied with Albert Pujols of the Cardinals for most in the Majors. ... Members of the Yankees' Gulf Coast League club were present at Tropicana Field for Friday's game.