Alex Rodriguez didn't receive a warm welcome back, but he's looking right at home these days.
Rodriguez hit two home runs and drove in four runs -- including the game-winning RBI in the eighth innings -- to lead the Yankees to a 5-4 win over the Rays Friday. A-Rod finished 3-for-4 and is now batting .344/.432/.781 with four homers, 11 RBI and six runs scored through 10 games.
And he's not just blooping singles all over the yard. Rodriguez hit a mammoth 471-foot home run off Rays starter Nate Karns in the second inning before hitting a laser shot down the left field line off Ernesto Frieri.
After having a year off, A-Rod was one of the toughest players in all of baseball to peg prior to the season. Even Rodriguez didn't think it would come back this quickly, though.
“In spring training, I don’t think anyone knew what to expect, including myself,” Rodriguez told the New York Times. “Hopefully it keeps going.
“I saw the ball well tonight, and I saw some good pitches to hit and put my A swing on it.”
The 39-year-old will be an interesting player to watch all season. The homers were his 657th and 658th all-time, moving him ever closer to Willie Mays' 660 mark. When he reaches that benchmark, the Yankees will pay him $6 million per their contract with the slugger. The team has indicated it will resist paying A-Rod the bonus.
He may not be wanted. But the team might have an increasingly difficult time denying that he's needed.
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Trout Makes More History
Another player who had a big day Friday broke a record previously held by our main subject.
Mike Trout, who homered twice and collected five RBI in Friday's 6-3 win over the Astros, became the youngest players in baseball history to reach 100 home runs and 100 steals in his career. Trout achieved the feat in 23 years and 253 days.
The previous owner of the record is still mashing, as evidenced by the lead topic -- Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod needed 23 years and 309 days to reach the benchmark.
With his two homers Friday, Trout now has 101 home runs and 104 stolen bases in 503 career games. The outfielder was predictably understated when asked about the achievement after the game.
“I’m just trying to win ballgames and stuff,” Trout said, “but I think that’s pretty cool.”
Trout's base-stealing has actually decreased in each of the past two seasons after he swiped 49 bags in 2012, but he has a renewed commitment to steals this season. Trout has two steals through 10 games after stealing just 16 bases during the entire 2014 season.
Trout earned his first MVP award last season and is already hitting .444/.500/.750 in 36 at-bats to start the year. Friday's accomplishment was another in a long line, but it certainly won't be the last.
Salazar Set To Stay
Danny Salazar's stay in the Indians rotation has a chance to be of the long-term variety.
The right-hander will be recalled Saturday to start for the Tribe against the Twins, but manager Terry Francona said it won't be one-and-done for Salazar.
"The plan is for this to not be a spot start for Danny," said Francona. "I mean we can always adjust, but we've put Zach in our bullpen to stabilize the pen. I told Zach that I think he's going to be a starter in the big leagues, but right now I think he can help us as a weapon in the bullpen."
Salazar lost out on a rotation spot in spring after posting an 8.18 ERA and 1.73 WHIP, but he struck out seven over six shutout innings in his one and only start with Triple-A Columbus this year. Zach McAllister, who Francona mentioned as being moved to the bullpen, impressed in spring but has allowed six runs in 9 1/3 innings to start the season.
There's no question that Salazar can be dominant when he's right. The 25-year-old was electric upon his arrival in the majors in 2013, posting a 3.12 ERA and 65/15 K/BB ratio over 52 innings. His 2014 was less impressive, as he owned a 4.25 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 20 starts.
Salazar is talented enough that he should be owned in mixed leagues for his upside. Those owners who want to wait to see which Salazar they're getting before putting him in their lineup won't be faulted, though.
National League Quick Hits: Kris Bryant's debut Friday was an endless amount of sizzle but no steak. Bryant struck out in each of his first three at-bats and finished 0-for-4 on the afternoon ... Michael Wacha continued his strong comeback season, tossing seven innings of one-run ball against the Reds for his second win. Wacha fanned four while allowing five hits and a walk in the victory ... Giancarlo Stanton homered in his second straight game after going homerless in his first nine games of the season ... Max Scherzer earned his first win as a member of the Nationals, allowing a lone run over eight innings against the Phillies. Scherzer struck out nine and now owns a 0.83 ERA through three starts ... Clayton Kershaw also got in the win column for the first time, allowing one earned run while striking out 12 over six innings Friday. The southpaw lowered his ERA to 4.42, a number we suspect will continue to drop as the season progresses.
American League Quick Hits: A-Rod and Trout weren't the only American Leaguers to get into the act with two-homer games Friday. Stephen Vogt, Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin all delivered two-home run efforts on the evening ... Alcides Escobar left Friday's game against the Athletics with a mild left knee strain after a hard slide by Brett Lawrie. He's considered day-to-day ... Jose Reyes sat out Friday, and he'll likely miss the entire weekend series against the Braves due to an oblique injury aggravated Thursday. Devon Travis batted leadoff for the Blue Jays in Reyes' absence, going 2-for-5 with a home run, two RBI and two runs scored ... Xander Bogaerts finished 2-for-4 and delivered a walk-off RBI single in the Red Sox win over the Orioles. The walk-off winner was the first of Bogaerts' career ... in that game, Ubaldo Jimenez was ejected for what home plate umpire Jordan Baker deemed to be a retaliatory HBP near the head of Pablo Sandoval. Jimenez had thrown 3 2/3 no-hit innings prior to the ejection ... Trevor Plouffe yanked an inside fastball into the left field seats to give the Twins a 3-2 walk-off win over the Indians. The Tribe wasted a good start from Corey Kluber, who limited the Twins to two runs over eight innings while striking out eight. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner remains winless on the year despite a 2.49 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 25/4 K/BB ratio over 21 2/3 innings.