Yankees Insider: Unlike last year, A-Rod won’t be needled

Yankees Insider: Unlike last year, A-Rod won’t be needled

TAMPA — Alex Rodriguez was all smiles as he strolled into Steinbrenner Field Wednesday. Why wouldn’t he be?

The Yankees’ designated hitter will meet the media for the first time this spring on Thursday, but unlike a year ago, the questions won’t be about performance-enhancing drugs, suspensions and the uncertainty surrounding his ability to produce on the field.

Joe Girardi noticed a difference in A-Rod’s demeanor during a brief chat Wednesday, noting an easiness in the 40-year-old that wasn’t necessarily there 12 months ago.

“He’s probably a little bit more relaxed in a sense knowing he doesn’t have to go through a gauntlet of questions on the first day,” Girardi said. “He’s doing what he loves to do, and he’s back. There’s not all the questions he had to answer last year. He looked really relaxed; looked good, too.”

A-Rod hit .284/.390/.513 with 16 home runs and 47 RBI through his first 77 games last season, and while he managed 17 homers and 39 RBI during his next 74 contests, his slash line dipped to .214/.320/.456.

“I think you look at maybe giving him some more timely days off,” Girardi said of the upcoming season. “There were times where he had some substantial time off, and he’d come back. I think he has a better understanding what it’s like to be a DH on an everyday basis, so I think that should help, but I think it’s picking your days wisely with him.”

Rob Refsnyder was the Yankees’ starting second baseman in last October’s AL wild card game, but the team went out and traded for Starlin Castro to man the position this season, leaving Refsnyder without a starting job to fight for this spring.

But the 24-year-old isn’t hanging his head as camp opens, excited instead by the possibility of landing a bench spot on the big-league roster.

“It’s not disappointing,” Refsnyder said. “If I work hard, put myself in a position, I think something good will happen. Just looking forward to getting back at it.”

Refsnyder has been working exclusively at second base this offseason, but he could be asked to try third base this spring as the Yankees look for options to back up Chase Headley.

“Shoot, I’m up for anything,” Refsnyder said. “I was playing right field in college a couple of years ago, so I’m not going to rule anything out.”

Girardi and his staff were set to address that topic among others during Wednesday’s meeting as they put a spring plan in place for the entire roster.

“He’ll probably be talked about as much as anyone in that meeting,” Girardi said.

The Yankees will take the field for their first full-squad workout Thursday as 33 of the 34 position players reported to camp for their spring physicals. The only player not to show up on time was infielder Ronald Torreyes, a Venezuelan who encountered visa issues. Torreyes is expected to arrive in camp on Thursday.

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Baseball – NY Daily News