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Joe Girardi: Alex Rodriguez has been biggest surprise of spring training

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Given the doom and gloom that was expected in lieu of the return of Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees after serving a one-year suspension, the fact that Joe Girardi said he was the biggest surprise of spring training certainly makes for an interesting development.

The Yankees, with one game left on the exhibition schedule set for Saturday, are breaking camp on Friday, providing for the perfect opportunity for the media to ask Girardi to give his overall impression of camp, including any surprises that crept up along the way.

“Really pleased with what Alex did,” Girardi said when asked about the very biggest surprise of spring training, per NJ.com.

Many predicted the return of baseball’s biggest pariah to the Bronx Bombers would turn into a circus sideshow, given that wherever A-Rod goes, controversy and distractions come following. But it has been anything but a volatile situation, with Rodriguez saying and doing all the right things with the Yankees managing expectations and allowing the 40-year-old time to reacquaint himself with baseball.

It’s a far cry from how A-Rod’s return was shrouded with dread, despite Girardi claiming to be excited about it, although general manager Brian Cashman clearly did not share his manager’s rosy outlook.

But Rodriguez got everything off to a decent start by penning an apology letter, while not universally admired (with one handwriting expert even suggesting he writes like a girl), was generally greeted as a step in the right direction.

And then he allowed his play — and positive attitude — do the talking, batting a respectable .286 with three homers all the while knocking off a year’s worth of rust.

Despite his statement that A-Rod was the biggest surprise, Girardi nevertheless admitted to hedging his bets just a bit coming into spring training.

“I’ve said all along, I thought Alex was going to help us,” the manager said. “But until you get into it, I mean, it’s two years since he’s played. I wasn’t 100 percent sure. I mean, if I were a betting man, I would have bet on him playing well. But there’s still that … you gotta see it after two years of not playing and being 39 1/2 years old.”

(photo credit: AP/Carlos Osorio)