TAMPA, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Alex Rodriguez started his second day of workouts at the New York Yankees’ minor league complex by hugging Chase Headley, the player signed to replace him at third base.
“He’s an excellent addition to our team,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “He had some questions, stuff about hitting, baseball dialogue. That’s my wheel house. It was great.”
Suspended for violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez missed all of last season and is trying to return as his 40th birthday approaches in July. Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman say Headley will be their starting third baseman and Rodriguez will compete for at-bats at designated hitter.
“If I thought that I was coming here as a first baseman or a left fielder or whatever, that wouldn’t have made sense for me,” Headley said.
Rodriguez has apologized to the Yankees and to fans, but didn’t go into specifics on his actions that led to the suspension. Six years ago, he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas.
When asked whether he will be mentally OK without using PEDs, Rodriguez responded: “I think I’ll be fine, but only time will tell.”
He’s just happy to be back in the game.
“That’s what I love to do, talk about baseball,” he said, according to NJ.com. “Every part of it, every facet. I’m crazy in love with baseball.”
Rodriguez walked onto the main field, where around a dozen other position players were stretching along the right-field line, two days before full-squad workouts start at the major league complex, a little more than one mile away. A-Rod headed to Headley for the warm greeting.
“We just started the process of getting to know each other better,” Headley said. “It was great to meet him and talk baseball a little bit. As a player, you experience different things through your career. There’s been different sets of circumstances that I’ve dealt with and this was just another one. Every interaction I’ve had with him has been positive.”
Rodriguez noted the absence of Derek Jeter, who retired last fall after 20 major league seasons and five World Series titles. Jeter appeared to distance himself from Rodriguez after A-Rod was quoted in a 2001 Esquire article saying “Jeter’s been blessed with great talent around him” and “he’s never had to lead.”
“No one can replace the captain,” Rodriguez said Tuesday. “I know I’m going to miss him tremendously.”
Rodriguez and Headley played catch, took grounders together at third and hit in the same group. Rodriguez took 35 swings, hitting three homers and two drives that landed high on the batter’s eye in center field.
The three-time AL MVP, who turns 40 in July, has not played a full season since 2007 because the suspension, operations on both hips and other injuries.
“The most important thing is to be patient,” he said. “It’s going to take at least three to four weeks to start getting a good read.”
Girardi thinks Rodriguez will be ready to play next week, when the exhibition schedule starts. Asked whether his feelings toward Rodriguez have changed, Girardi said “I don’t know.”
“My personal feelings are my personal feelings,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something you discuss. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get the most out of him.”
NOTES: After talking with reporters for five minutes, Rodriguez had an extended conversion with Yankees executive director of communications and media relations Jason Zillo. … LHP CC Sabathia (knee) had his second bullpen session. “I’m really pleased with what I saw,” Girardi said. … Former major leaguer Scott Rolen was at the minor league complex to work with Yankees 3B prospect Eric Jagielo. Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo extended the invitation.
(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)