What sage figure could’ve been the key to Alex Rodriguez’ 12th inning HR to beat the Braves yesterday? His fair weather buddy, the shortstop? His manager? His motivational guru? Or was it his former Seattle manager? Guess which of the above took credit when speaking to the New York Daily News’ Bill Madden?

“I was leaving the park myself when Cynthia came up to me and said Alex would really like to see me,” Piniella said yesterday. “I’ve felt terrible for him, seeing what he’s been going through. You have to remember, he was our ‘baby’ in Seattle. I watched him grow up in the big leagues. I’ve always felt very close to him and I’m very proud of all he’s accomplished and if there was anything I could do to help him, I would.”

And, as a matter of fact, there was.

“Basically, I just told him to trust himself. We talked about mechanics, staying confident, being positive. This was nothing new. He needed a friend to talk about hitting and I was glad to be there. That’s all. I wouldn’t want Donnie (Mattingly) to think I was interfering or anything.”

At the mention of Mattingly, I had to remind Piniella that whenever “Donnie Baseball” would get into a slump he, too, would reach out to his first hitting mentor with the Yankees. “Yeah, I guess he did,” Piniella said with laugh, “but I’m still employed by the Devil Rays and I don’t want to get into any trouble here. I just care a lot about Alex and he wanted to talk.”