TAMPA, Fla. — Alex Rodriguez is upbeat as the New York Yankees prepare to start spring training games Wednesday with a split-squad matchup against the Detroit Tigers.
"I like our team," Rodriguez said Tuesday. "We have a veteran team. We have some youth. We have a good combination of diversity on our roster."
The 40-year-old designated hitter is not scheduled to play until Thursday’s home game against a Philadelphia spilt squad. He is also expected to play Saturday against Boston.
"I’m happy, healthy and ready to go," Rodriguez said. "I’m in shape and really excited about this season because I think we have a fun team."
New York ended a two-year absence from the playoffs last year but lost to Houston in the AL wild-card game.
"Last year we had some unfinished business," A-Rod said.
Rodriguez feels this year’s Yankees’ team has something like a "board of trustees" when it comes to senior players setting the tone.
"We have great leaders in our clubhouse," Rodriguez said. "There’s about seven, eight guys that are actually doing great leading."
Although he slumped late last season, Rodriguez finished with a .250 batting average, 33 homers and 86 RBIs. A-Rod sat out all of 2014 for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labour contract, and was sidelined for most of 2013 following hip surgery.
"There’s a lot of weight off my shoulders," Rodriguez said. "I’m certainly in a much better place."
The Yankees didn’t practice Tuesday, opting instead to have a team-bonding event involving communication skills.
"We laughed a lot," Rodriguez said.
The activity at Steinbrenner Field lasted about two hours.
"Try to get guys out of their comfort zone and be able to enjoy each other’s company," outfielder Aaron Hicks said. "Just learn how to have fun with each other."
LF Brett Gardner (bruised left wrist) is scheduled to take batting practice for the first time Wednesday, in an indoor cage. … RHP Nathan Eovaldi (mild groin tightness) has his bullpen session pushed back one day to Thursday to line him up for his first spring training start.
RHP Luis Severino is to start against the Tigers on Wednesday and will throw two innings or around 30 pitches. The right-hander is looking to secure a rotation spot after going 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA over 11 starts in his first big league season last year.