New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is set to play Tuesday night in his first minor league game on a rehabilitation assignment. And this time, all sides agree he's ready to go.
Rodriguez said he felt fine and was eager to get on the field for Class A Charleston.
"Awesome," he said Monday at the Yankees' spring training complex. "I'm really excited."
Rodriguez said he didn't have a timetable for rejoining the Yankees, a team in desperate need of hitters. He was on a conference call with team officials earlier in the day.
"I have no idea," he said.
Last week, Rodriguez posted on Twitter that his hip surgeon had cleared him to play in rehab games. That upset Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who said Rodriguez hadn't been OKed by team doctors.
Cashman lashed out at Rodriguez with a profanity, then said the next day that he regretted his word choice. Rodriguez later spoke with owner Hal Steinbrenner, with the executive reiterating that injury news should be announced by the team, not players.
Now, no problems.
"It's all been very positive. We're all looking in the same direction: ... Get back to New York as soon as possible, and tomorrow is the first big step," Rodriguez said. "We've talked to all our doctors. Everyone has approved it."
The Yankees rank near the bottom of the American League in runs and home runs. Minus Rodriguez, the Yankees have especially struggled at third base. Rookie David Adams is hitting under .200 and Kevin Youkilis, signed in the off-season to hold the job until A-Rod returned, was batting only .218 before he went on the disabled list with back problems.
Rodriguez and Youkilis are among several injured players on the Yankees, who began the day in fourth place in the AL East. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are also sidelined, as are others.
Manager Joe Girardi called the rehab assignment "a step in the right direction."
"I expect him to be a productive player," Girardi said before the Yankees opened a series at Minnesota. "The last time he got his hip fixed, he came productive. Hopefully this will solve some of the things he was dealing with last year and I expect him to be productive.
"I can't tell you exactly what he's going to do, but I think he's going to be a good player," he said.
'It's been a long time'
The Yankees said Rodriguez was scheduled to start for Single-A Charleston in the South Atlantic League. Rodriguez was supposed to play at least three innings against Rome during the game in South Carolina.
"It will be the first game that I play in, in maybe over eight months. It's been a long time. It's going to be great to suit up again. It gets me one step closer to helping my team win in New York," he said.
Rodriguez has been working out in Florida this year while recovering from surgery on his left hip on Jan. 16. The three-time AL MVP turns 38 later this month.
Many rehabbing Yankees play for the minor league team in Tampa, but lately the weather has been rainy. The inclement forecast prompted the Yankees to have Rodriguez start with Charleston.
"Two things — we're working with the scheduling, where all these teams are at. There's rain all over the East Coast. So, we're just going to try and run away, try to find some good sunshine."
"It has to do more with the weather. In an ideal world, we would always play at home because we can do more work, but if the weather is bad, we may have to jump over at X, Y or Z, depending where the sunshine is," he said.
Rodriguez walked out of the camp carrying an equipment bag while a clubhouse assistant brought a box of bats. They put them in Rodriguez's car, and he signed several autographs before driving off.
Rodriguez has 647 career home runs. The Yankees have struggled this season while Rodriguez and several other stars have been on the disabled list.
Rodriguez has 20 days on this assignment to get ready to play. Once he is ready, Girardi said he still envisions Rodriguez as an everyday third baseman with no plans to make him a primary designated hitter.
"We've had trouble scoring runs," Girardi said. "That's no secret. So it'd be nice to get some big bats back."