- Associated Press - Friday, August 12, 2011

DUNEDIN, FLA. (AP) - New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez called it a lucky shot. Actually, his home run Friday night was a key step in his return from a knee injury.

Playing in his first minor league game during a rehabilitation program, Rodriguez hit a long home run to left field in his first at-bat for Tampa in the Class A Florida State League.

Rodriguez connected on a 3-1 pitch from former New York Mets lefty Willie Collazo, who is on Toronto’s disabled list. A-Rod later hit an RBI double in going 2 for 3 against Dunedin.

“For me, the home run meant a little bit more than a home run just because the last several weeks I was playing in New York I wasn’t able to drive the ball,” Rodriguez said. “I probably didn’t hit a home run for like, over 70 at-bats.”

“My team expects me to hit the ball and drive the ball out of the park,” he said. That’s what I expect out of myself, too. So hopefully I can comeback and hit the ground running, and help my team win the division and go from there.”

Rodriguez lined an RBI double off Collazo down the right-field line in the third. He took it easy running out the stand-up hit.

“Just making sure that we take it one step at a time,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got about five or six days here to work with, and my idea is to always to ramp it up and hopefully keep increasing the intensity.”

In his third and final at-bat, coming in the fifth against left-hander Matt Wright, Rodriguez struck out looking.

Rodriguez had surgery on his right knee on July 14. The All-Star third baseman was the designated hitter on Friday night, and is expected to play five or six innings in the field Saturday.

“It’s healthy,” Rodriguez said of his knee. “Now it’s just a matter of ramping it up.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday night that Rodriguez may play for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday and Wednesday. Rodriguez could rejoin the Yankees next Thursday when a series starts in Minnesota.

“We hope so,” Rodriguez said about returning next week. “You don’t want to set anything for the record, but I think today was another step forward. Another day that I progressed pretty well and on target.”

The three-time AL MVP is hitting .295 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs this season.

Rodriguez will take part in a simulated game on Sunday.

Notes: LHP Pedro Feliciano, who hasn’t pitched this season because of a tear in his left shoulder, threw 30 pitches in his first batting practice session at the Yankees‘ minor league complex in Tampa. … Backup infielder Ramiro Pena, who had an appendectomy on July 18, played catch in the outfield and hit off a tee. … Converted reliever Mark Prior, coming back from a strained groin and back soreness, allowed one run, one hit and hit two batters over one inning in his third rookie-level Gulf Coast League game in the last eight days.

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