Alex Rodriguez goes 1-for-4 with a single in his first game back with Yankees

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Let the spectacle begin.

Despite being handed a 211-game suspension from MLB for his alleged connections to Biogenesis, Alex Rodriguez is making his season debut tonight against the White Sox. In his first game in the majors since January hip surgery, he’s batting cleanup and playing third base. And you can count on HBT to bring you all the details.

8:39 PM: With the Yankees down 3-0, Rodriguez led off the top of the second inning against left-hander Jose Quintana for his first at-bat. Not surprisingly, he didn’t get a very warm welcome for the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, with boos raining down on him after his name was announced and during the at-bat.

After Rodriguez took the first two pitches for balls, he dumped a single into shallow left field which Casper Wells failed to catch on the dive. See, he’s already a massive improvement at third base. Rodriguez scampered to third base on a double by Vernon Wells — and looked perfectly healthy doing so — but he ended up being stranded there after Quintana sat down Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki, and Eduardo Nunez. That’s Yankee baseball in 2013 for you.

9:38 PM: Rodriguez took his second at-bat in the top of the fourth inning with one out. After swinging through a pitch for strike one and taking a ball which got away from the catcher, he flew out a few feet away from the warning track in center field. Rodriguez was visibly frustrated after he made contact, as he likely realized that he just missed a potential home run. As for the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, it was more reason to celebrate a 7-0 lead for the home team.

10:21 PM: Rodriguez had his third at-bat in the sixth inning with one out. After taking two balls and swinging through a pitch, he ripped one just short of the warning track in left field. He hit the ball hard and gave it a pretty good ride, but Casper Wells was right there to secure the out. Rodriguez is now 1-for-3 with a single and two fly outs on the evening.

11:04 PM: Rodriguez came up for his fourth at-bat with no outs and a runner on first in the top of the eighth inning. Facing reliever Matt Lindstrom, he ran the count full before striking out looking, which was followed by a loud ovation from the fans. It’s worth noting that the boos and chants were even louder in this at-bat than earlier ones, likely because the fans realized it would be his final at-bat of the night.

11:23 PM: The Yankees lost to the White Sox by the score of 8-1 while Rodriguez ended the night 1-for-4 with a single, two fly outs, and a strikeout. While his range at third base isn’t great at this point, he handled all of his chances in the field without any major issue and looked fine when he ran the bases. Rodriguez will have a really tough test on his hands tomorrow night when the Yankees go up against Chicago’s ace Chris Sale.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment “egregious case of service time manipulation”

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.