Alex Rodriguez lined a single to left field in his return to the New York Yankees’ lineup after an absence of 524 days.

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TAMPA, Fla. — Alex Rodriguez walked from the batter’s box to home plate in the bottom of the first inning, eye black smeared across his face, and said hello to Philadelphia catcher Tommy Joseph, who was just 1 when A-Rod was taken first in the 1993 amateur draft. Then he turned his head and greeted umpire Marty Foster.

“I told Marty and Tommy to take it easy on the old man,” Rodriguez explained. “It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been in the box.”

Rodriguez lined a single to left field in his return to the New York Yankees’ lineup after an absence of 524 days. He went 1 for 2 with a walk in a 3-1 spring-training loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, another step forward as he tries to resume his drug-scarred career.

A-Rod was greeted by a 10-second mix of boos and cheers from the crowd of 9,673 at Steinbrenner Field on a sunny, 80 degree afternoon. Rodriguez had not played since September 2013, four months before an arbitrator said he must serve a one-year suspension imposed for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract.

“Once you hit rock bottom, any time you hear a few cheers these days is a pleasant surprise,” he said.

He wore the Yankees’ traditional white uniform with pinstripes for the team’s exhibition season home opener. Rodriguez swung at the first four of 10 pitches he saw in three plate appearances. Batting second as New York’s designated hitter, he swung past a pair of 91 mph pitches from Philadelphia’s Kevin Slowey in the first.

“I felt like I was swinging under water,” he said. “I was like, man, it’s been a long time.”

TEMPE, Ariz. — Major League Baseball will have to break a split decision about how to handle Josh Hamilton.

A four-person panel, which was to determine whether the Los Angeles Angels outfielder should enter a rehabilitation program for substance abuse, is deadlocked in its opinion, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

The group is comprised of two attorneys and two physicians — one of each appointed by the commissioner’s office and the players union. The panel first determines whether a player has violated MLB’s drug policy, then decides a course of treatment.

Because there is not an agreement on treatment, an arbitrator is expected to join the committee and break the tie, according to a person familiar with the process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is not supposed to be discussed publicly.


Alex Johnson, who played 13 years in the majors and won the AL batting title with the then-California Angels in 1970, has died in Detroit. He was 72. Alex Johnson Jr. said his father died Saturday of complications from prostate cancer. Johnson played only two seasons with the Angels and became the only batting champion in the 55-year-old franchise’s history when he hit .329 in 1970.

• The Detroit Tigers released right-handed pitcher Joel Hanrahan. Detroit said that Hanrahan, who never pitched for the club, would have his second Tommy John surgery on March 18.