BY GENE SAPAKOFF
Alex Rodriguez just wants to get back on the field, even if it’s four levels below Major League Baseball.
The controversial New York Yankees star makes his 2013 debut Tuesday night, not in pinstripes, but wearing purple and gold for a rehabilitation start on Two-for-$20 Date Night at Charleston’s Riley Park. Rodriguez, sidelined since offseason hip surgery, will play at least three innings for the Low Class A RiverDogs on Tuesday night against the Rome Braves and might stick around for more innings Wednesday night.
Game time is 7 p.m. both nights.
“It will be the first game that I play in, in maybe over eight months,” Rodriguez told reporters at the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. “It’s been a long time. It’s going to be great to suit up again. It gets me one step closer to helping my team win in New York.”
The RiverDogs are just as thrilled.
“Certainly A-Rod is a little more mainstream than most players,” RiverDogs general manager Dave Echols said. “You may not be an A-Rod fan, but like him or not, he’s fun to watch. We’re anxious to see how A-Rod is progressing. It should be fun.”
Sellouts are expected Tuesday and Wednesday. The Wednesday night “Fourth of July” celebration game was a near-sellout before the A-Rod news Monday afternoon (the RiverDogs are on the road Thursday).
An ESPN crew is on the way. The RiverDogs expect more media than the modest press box can handle.
“We’re trying to scramble,” Echols said.
Derek Jeter also is on the Yankees’ disabled list, rehabbing a broken ankle in Tampa. How about Jeter in a RiverDogs uniform?
“We haven’t heard that yet,” Echols said. “But that would be nice, too.”
Rodriguez, 37, clashed with Yankees GM Brian Cashman just last week after a tweet in which A-Rod said he had been cleared to play by Dr. Bryan Kelly, a surgeon who performed the hip surgery but who is not on the Yankees’ payroll.
“You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, (we will),” Cashman told ESPN New York. “Alex should just shut the (bleep) up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”
Rodriguez said Monday things have been patched up.
“It’s all been very positive,” he said in Tampa. “We’re all looking in the same direction … get back to New York as soon as possible and (Tuesday) is the first big step.”
Rodriguez has hit 647 home runs — fifth on the all-time list – over 19 major league seasons.
But he is among players tied to a Major League Baseball investigation of Anthony Bosch and his Biogenesis lab, which has been accused of giving performance-enhancing drugs to players.
That was coming off a rocky postseason in which the Yankees pinch-hit for Rodriguez, and team officials said they were aware that Rodriguez sought a female fan’s phone number in the midst of an American League Championship Series loss to the Detroit Tigers.