By Ricky Doyle
Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees arrived at Fenway Park on Friday for the start of a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox. The series is Rodriguez’s first in Boston since serving a season-long performance-enhancing drug suspension last season, and A-Rod comes to town one home run shy of tying Willie Mays (660) for fourth on Major League Baseball’s all-time homer list.
“I’m excited. I love playing at Fenway,” Rodriguez told reporters after going 0-for-6 with four strikeouts Wednesday as New York lost to the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. “It’s a fun place to play, great fans, and obviously I have a lot of respect for everyone with the Red Sox. I’m looking forward to it.”
Rodriguez might be forced to wait a day to take aim at the Green Monster seats and home run No. 660. The 39-year-old wasn’t penciled into the Yankees’ starting lineup Friday, as New York opted for nine left-handed/switch-hitters against Red Sox starter Justin Masterson.
“My job is not to be caught up in milestones in a sense, but to be caught up with what is the best lineup you can field that day in a sense,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the decision to hold Rodriguez out of Friday’s starting lineup. “He’ll wait one day. But I do want to get (the milestone) out of the way, because I think as much, as a player, you try not to think about it, it’s impossible. The sooner we get it out of the way, the better.”
Rodriguez, who has performed well this season despite missing all of 2014, enters this weekend’s series in a 5-for-37 slump that has dropped his average from .344 to .232. He last homered Sunday in a 6-4 win over the New York Mets.
“Pitch selection for me,” Girardi said of Rodriguez’s struggles. “Some of the pitches that he’s swung at, and some of the ones he’s gotten to hit he’s missed a little bit. Maybe trying to get (the milestone) out of the way.
“As much as I want to tell him to relax, that’s something he’s going to have to do to get it out of the way.”
Rodriguez is a .288 hitter with 24 homers and 76 RBIs in 119 career games at Fenway. His next blast will certainly be a memorable one, though it’s hard to imagine the Fenway Faithful greeting it with approval.
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