- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

JUPITER, Fla. | The Silver Slugger winners parading to the plate made the Dominican Republic look pretty potent in its first game Tuesday, and Alex Rodriguez did his part.

Rodriguez doubled and scored in a six-run fifth inning to help the Dominicans beat the Florida Marlins 10-1.

Playing in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, the Dominicans totaled 19 hits. Rodriguez went 1-for-3 and came out of the game after 4 1/2 innings.

“It was fun being out there for the first game,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of energy and I like our team. These guys are family. They’ve been together since they were in the minor leagues. They’re all like brothers. It’s nice for me to come in and try to jell as much as I can. So far, so good.”

The Dominicans will play their first WBC game Saturday in Puerto Rico against the Netherlands. Players on their roster have won a combined 21 Silver Sluggers, the most of any team in the tournament.

“We have a pretty good team here,” manager Felipe Alou said. “It’s a well-balanced team.”

Cleanup hitter Rodriguez is the focal point in more ways than one, but the tempest surrounding him the past 3 1/2 weeks has abated. During his eight-minute postgame news conference, the only questions about performance enhancement had to do with how Rodriguez will benefit from the players batting around him in the lineup.

With a logjam at shortstop, Alou had Jose Reyes lead off and play in the field, while Hanley Ramirez batted third as the designated hitter. Each contributed two hits.

“I’m jealous of those guys,” said Rodriguez, a former shortstop. “Their talent is unbelievable. I’m an enormous fan of both of them.”

Reyes scored twice and stole a base. Rodriguez smiled when asked about the way the Mets star runs the bases and said the Yankees could use that speed.

“I wish he was leading off on our team and playing on our team,” Rodriguez said. “That’s fun to watch any time you have that type of speed. We have a guy in [Brett] Gardner. That’ll be fun. That’s probably the most fun you can have - watching a guy like that run.”

Rodriguez scored from second base on a pinch-hit single by Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. They’re AL East rivals but have been friendly since both played in the Mariners organization, and Rodriguez said Ortiz has been especially supportive lately.

“David is my brother,” Rodriguez said. “I consider him a true friend - lots of phone calls, lots of e-mails, lots of texts. He always has a big smile and a hug waiting for you.”

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