NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez’s already strained relationship with the New York Yankees hit another low when he pushed to be activated from the disabled list Friday, the team refused and he had a lawyer join the discussion of his injury rehabilitation.
Already a target of Major League Baseball’s drug investigation, the third baseman angered the Yankees when he obtained a second medical opinion on his strained left quadriceps this week without informing the team in writing, a step required by the sport’s collective bargaining agreement. The Yankees intend to discipline him, most likely with a fine.
“Do you trust the Yankees?” Rodriguez was asked during an interview on WFAN radio.
A-Rod’s answer was telling.
“Um. You know, I’d rather not get into that,” he responded. “‘I’m just frustrated that I’m not on the field tomorrow.”
Sidelined since hip surgery in January, Rodriguez issued a statement early Thursday saying he wanted to be activated for Friday’s homestand opener against Tampa Bay. But that wasn’t in the Yankees plans.
“We agreed that a protocol would be followed that is necessary when you return somebody from a quad injury,” general manager Brian Cashman said during a conference call with the team’s beat writers. “That protocol will include further treatment, which he’ll continue tomorrow with some light conditioning, and then expand to more functional work from the 27th through the 31st. Our hope, as well as Alex’s hope, without any setbacks or new complaints, that would put him in a situation to have either a simulated game or a rehab game on Aug. 1.”
A-Rod was miffed.
“Obviously I’m very, very disappointed,” he said. “I know I can help my team. Obviously, I’m frustrated but I agreed to this five-day plan, and on we go.”
He repeatedly said he told the Yankees he was ready to return.
“Tomorrow night would be the perfect night to come back and get in the lineup,” he said.
Whether he gets back on a big league field any time soon or ever plays for the Yankees again remains to be seen.
MLB has been investigating Rodriguez as part of its probe of the closed Biogenesis clinic in Florida , accused in media reports of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. A suspension appears likely, but Rodriguez could ask the players’ association to contest a drug penalty — making it possible he might not have to serve any time until next year.
He is among the dozen or so players under investigation by MLB; he has said in the past that he used PEDs from 2001-03 while with Texas but maintained he has not used them since.
The Yankees intend to discipline A-Rod for seeking a second medical opinion without their permission, a person familiar with the team’s deliberations said.
The exact penalty had not been determined, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because no statements were authorized. A fine appeared to be the most likely option.
Meantime, Rodriguez’s return from hip surgery has created more drama than most players experience in their entire careers.
Seemingly days away from rejoining the Yankees, Rodriguez injured a leg last weekend and was sent to New York for an MRI on Sunday. Team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad diagnosed a grade 1 strain, the least severe level.
Dr. Michael Gross, the orthopedic director of The Sports Medicine Institute at Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center, was retained by Rodriguez and said on WFAN on Wednesday that he examined an MRI and could not detect an injury. Gross, who never examined Rodriguez personally, was reprimanded this year by New Jersey’s board of medical examiners over steroid prescriptions, fined $30,000 and ordered to pay $10,000 in costs.
Rodriguez was re-examined Thursday by Dr. Daniel Murphy, the Yankees’ orthopedic surgeon in Tampa, Fla., who confirmed Ahmad’s diagnosis. Cashman said Murphy determined there was “clearly some improvement.”
Yankees President Randy Levine and Cashman got on a 15-minute conference call with Tim Lentych, the head athletic trainer at the player development complex in Tampa; Rodriguez; and Jordan Siev, co-head of the U.S. commercial litigation group at Reed Smith, a law firm used by A-Rod pal Jay-Z.
A-Rod is baseball’s highest-paid player with a $28 million salary this year and is owed $86 million more in the next four seasons. He sounded like a man who anticipated having to fight for his money.
“Just want to make sure that everything is documented properly,” he said.
Siev did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Earlier Thursday, Rodriguez issued a statement provocative to a team that already has told him it determines his return schedule, not him.
“I think the Yanks and I crossed signals,” the three-time AL MVP said in the statement issued by spokesman Ron Berkowitz. “I don’t want any more mixups. I’m excited and ready to play and help this team win a championship. I feel great and I’m ready and want to be in the lineup Friday night. Enough doctors, let’s play.”
Rodriguez, who turns 38 Saturday, earns $153,005 each day during the season, and while he remains on the disabled list much of the money is covered by insurance.
Rodriguez has hit .250 (8 for 40) with two homers and eight RBIs in 13 minor league games. About a week before he began the injury rehab assignment on July 2, Rodriguez tweeted that the surgeon who operated on his hip “gave me the best news – the green light to play games again!”
Cashman memorably responded: “Alex should just shut the … up.”
If Rodriguez is healthy, New York could use his bat. Yankees third basemen began Thursday hitting .217, ahead of only Cleveland, according to STATS. Their four homers are more than only Miami and their 29 RBIs are 28th in the majors.
Seeking offense, the Yankees are closing in on a trade to acquire former New York star Alfonso Soriano from the Chicago Cubs.
Rodriguez said he’d like to rehab with the major league team, as captain Derek Jeter is doing he comes back from a quadriceps injury.
But the Yankees seem to regard A-Rod as toxic.
“Obviously, I’m an employee,” he said. “I have to follow my bosses.”
Associated Press Writer Mark Didtler in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.