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YANKEES Rodriguez unloads a long ball into car

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

One of his blasts over the fence struck a Japanese reporter's rental car.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Several swings into his first Yankees workout, Alex Rodriguez already had done damage -- to a car parked too close behind the center-field fence, that is.
Early into Saturday's session, New York's newest star launched a long drive that was followed by a loud bonk. The home run ball left a 2-inch dent and blue smear on the hood of a silver Mazda, a rental driven by a reporter from Japan.
"I didn't think Alex would be hitting today," Masanori Hirose said. "My mistake."
The shot was one of 10 balls Rodriguez hit over the fence in 65 swings. He took batting practice with two minor league prospects -- A-Rod was the one not wearing a helmet -- while a few groundskeepers shagged flies.
Broke bat
At one point, the reigning AL MVP borrowed young Eric Duncan's bat and promptly broke it, sending the shattered barrel flying down the third-base line.
"Eric, there's your wood," Rodriguez called out, smiling. "That's that minor league wood."
Duncan, the Yankees' No. 1 draft pick last June, didn't mind one bit. As he left the field, he was carrying both pieces of the broken bat.
"I'll be holding on to that one for a while," he said.
Rodriguez fielded about 50 grounders at third base, his new position, bobbling one and letting another skip under his glove. He did most of that work on his knees, drawn in close on the infield grass.
He looked smooth on some slow rollers, charging the balls and making strong, accurate, off-balance throws to first base.
"I'm fine, but you can't really tell where you are until you get into a game," he said.
On two fields
The one-hour session took place on two fields at the Yankees' minor league complex, about a mile from where the big league pitchers set up camp at Legends Field. About 50 fans fanned out to watch Rodriguez from beyond the fence, and a flock of seagulls landed nearby on the lush outfield grass.
A couple of Yankees officials looked on, though owner George Steinbrenner was not among them.
"I feel like I have an injection of energy. I'm floating," Rodriguez said. "I'm still not aware of where I am right now.
"You look in the mirror and see the Yankee uniform, it's awesome," he said.
Rodriguez wore dark blue shorts with a matching T-shirt. He might put on the full pinstripes next week when the rest of the position players report for their first official spring training workout.