- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (AP) - New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez completed his second day of baseball workouts without a problem Tuesday and could soon start taking batting practice.

“It should be pretty soon,” Rodriguez, who had right hip surgery five weeks ago, said after watching batting practice before New York’s game Tuesday night at Tampa Bay.

Rodriguez hit off a tee and took part in a soft toss session for the second consecutive day. He also threw, stretched and took grounders in an indoor cage at Steinbrenner Field, the Yankees’ spring training ballpark.

“You know what I was most curious about? How he moved,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who watched the workout. “Very fluid. We joked, would he be available tonight? He looked really good. The first two days were really good.”

The baseball drills were moved from the Yankees’ minor league complex because of rain.

“I felt good,” Rodriguez said. “Just natural soreness.”

The Yankees have targeted approximately May 15 for A-Rod’s return, although the three-time AL MVP is hoping to be back earlier.

“I think all of us would love to have him back as soon as possible,” Girardi said. “If we get him early, you get him early. The only thing we don’t want once he comes here, we don’t want to have to sit him down. We want him to be here ready to play.”

In other news, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira returned to the starting lineup Tuesday night after missing the previous three games with a sore left wrist.

An MRI exam Monday showed no structural problems with Teixeira’s wrist.

“The MRI was good. Good to know there’s no damage,” Teixeira said.

Girardi made several lineup adjustments Tuesday.

Left fielder Johnny Damon, designated hitter Hideki Matsui and third baseman Cody Ransom did not start.

Damon is fighting a bad cold and dealing with a personal matter. He expects to play Wednesday.

“Under the weather,” Damon said. “Body sore. It just got to me.”

The Yankees decided to start backup catcher Jose Molina after a long game Monday night. Girardi opted to have starting catcher Jorge Posada, who began the day hitting .350, be the designated hitter instead of the struggling Matsui.

Matsui, coming back from left knee surgery, said he is fine physically, but feels his timing is off at the plate. Through Monday, he had a .125 batting average with one homer and two RBIs.

“Things are not there yet,” Matsui said through a translator.

Ransom, filling in for Rodriguez, had played all of the Yankees’ first seven games and had two hits in 24 at-bats. He was replaced by rookie Ramiro Pena.

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