04/09/07 7:28 PM ET
A-Rod, Vladdy share Player of the Week
By Dawn Klemish / MLB.com
"I'm having a good time," Rodriguez said Sunday.
The Orioles, however, were not enjoying Rodriguez's success. Their pitching staff was at the mercy of the 2003 and 2005 AL MVP as A-Rod was 5-for-11 against Baltimore (.455) with three homers and eight RBIs.
His performance earned him the distinction of receiving the season's first AL Player of the Week award, which he'll share with Angels right fielder Vladimir Guerrero.
Rodriguez, a 10-time All-Star, went 2-for-5 with a home run and two RBIs on Opening Day against Tampa Bay, and drove in another run Tuesday. It was a refreshing change from the postseason struggles he endured at the end of the 2006 season, and Yankees manager Joe Torre credits part of it to a lack of hesitation in Rodriguez's swings.
"I said several times in Spring Training, I felt he looked very relaxed," Torre said. "He seemed to have a smoothness about him -- not style smooth, but it just didn't look like he was forcing anything."
He had no hitch in his swing on Saturday, either. New York trailed Baltimore 7-6 with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth when Rodriguez strolled up to the plate. He didn't disappoint, driving a Ray pitch out of the park to enter the history books alongside Vern Stephens (St. Louis Browns) and Cy Williams (Phillies) as the only players in Major League history with three game-winning grand slams.
"[Rodriguez] is such a big part of this club," Yankees manager Joe Torre said Saturday. "He sits in the middle of our lineup and the expectations are high. It's really tough for him to live up to them. Today, he did."
An emotional Rodriguez said afterward that it was one of his best moments as a Yankee.
"It felt awesome," Rodriguez said. "I was so excited, I felt like a fool running around the bases, like it was Little League. I just remember I almost knocked [coach Larry] Bowa over at third. I saw the fans rocking behind him. That was kind of cool.
"You relish it," Rodriguez said. "As an athlete, you always want to be in that opportunity." The fans that had earlier booed him for dropping a foul pop-up clamored for a curtain call, and shortstop Derek Jeter made sure his teammate obliged.
"I'm happy for him, that he came through," Jeter said. "That was a big hit for us. We needed that. We didn't want to waste another game."
Rodriguez is batting .381 (8-for-21) with four home runs, three doubles, 11 RBIs, two walks and a stolen base so far this season, and holds a 1.095 slugging percentage. This is his first Player of the Week honor since the week of August 28-Sept. 3, 2006, and his 11th overall.
Guerrero similarly dismantled opponents' pitching during the last week, hitting .440 (11-for-25) with two doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs and an .880 slugging percentage.
"It's his hand-eye coordination that makes him so good," teammate Kelvim Escobar said. "Vladdy sees the ball and swings at it. He has fun. He loves to hit. He can look bad for one pitch and then hit the next one."
The seven-time All-Star started the week with a bang, going 4-for-4 and slugging a home run with three RBIs on April 3. Two days later, Guerrero went 2-for-4 and added another homer, and on April sixth he belted a three-run blast.
It was a performance which prompted division rival Oakland reliever Kevin Witasick to say that Guerrero "covers the plate and then some," after the 2004 AL MVP belted a three-run homer off him on April 6. Escobar quipped afterward, "I'm just glad I don't have to face him," but it was Rangers starter Vicente Padilla who perhaps had the most accurate description of Guerrero's week.
"The problem is, Guerrero is hitting everybody," Padilla said. "I think I made some good pitches, but one at-bat I broke his bat and he still gets a single. He's an exceptional batter."
This was Guerrero's third AL Player of the Week award in his 12-season career in the Majors.
Also considered for this week's award were Minnesota pitcher Johan Santana (2-0, 2.77 ERA, 13 innings pitched, 15 strikeouts), Angels righthander John Lackey (2-0, 0.75 ERA, 12 IP, 11 Ks) and Cleveland's Grady Sizemore (.429 average, three homers, four RBIs).
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Reporter Bryan Hoch contributed to this article. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.