LAKELAND, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez was matter-of-fact in a 2½-minute interview session that he abruptly ended when he was asked about being an elite player again.
Rodriguez was scheduled to play Friday for the Class A Tampa Yankees in a makeup game against the Lakeland Tigers. After the game was rained out, he worked for about a half hour in the batting cages at the facility that also serves as the Detroit Tigers' spring training site.
After showering, Rodriguez emerged from the visiting clubhouse and motioned the media over to a tunnel away from sight from a small squadron of autograph seekers who were waiting for him, and dispassionately answered questions about his health and rehabilitation.
Then he was asked: "Are you confident that you can be an elite player once you get back to the Bronx?"
"I do ... yes," he said. And then, as he abruptly turned and walked away from where the waiting autograph seekers were, he said, "Thanks guys. Have a good day."
Rodriguez, who is rehabbing from offseason surgery on his left hip, is now scheduled to play for the Tampa Yankees in a Class A Florida State League game Saturday against the Brevard County Manatees, who back in 2006 fielded a prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization named Ryan Braun.
Like Rodriguez, Braun is now linked to Biogenesis, a defunct anti-aging clinic in Miami that MLB is investigating for allegedly providing players with performance-enhancing drugs.
Beyond Saturday's game, Rodriguez said there is nothing scheduled yet for the next step of his rehab.
With Friday's rainout, Rodriguez has now missed two consecutive days since returning to baseball. He played Tuesday and Wednesday for the Charleston RiverDogs, another Yankees Class A affiliate, in Charleston, S.C. Playing third base, Rodriguez got four at-bats -- two in each game -- grounding out three times and striking out once.
"For me, it was great to be under the lights again, playing baseball," he said. "It's been nine months for me. It's been a long time. Great town. Felt good. Great energy. Great fans. Pretty exciting to be out playing baseball. It's what I love to do."
He cautioned, however, not to read too much into such a small sampling.
"It's going to take me a half-dozen to 10 games to at least get better feedback for how things are going," he said. "I'd like to get at least 25 at-bats before I even think about timing. It's just good to be able to see the ball and put the ball in play. So far so good."
He emphasized that it's not just hitting, but all aspects of his game that he's working on, and that so far he's feeling the normal soreness of playing baseball again. After Friday's rainout, Rodriguez said he got in six simulated at-bats and felt that the workout was good.
"Nothing bothers me," he said. "Everything is good so far. But you work on everything. Again, it's been a long time. Lateral movement. Explosion at the plate. Those are things I want to look at a lot more than timing.
"But no matter what kind of shape you're in, baseball shape is different. No matter how hard you work in the offseason, when you get out in cleats and you're in spring training you have soreness that you never felt before. It's a type of conditioning. Baseball is an endurance game; it's an everyday game. You've got to get your legs under you to make sure you're ready for the long haul."
But will that long haul lead to an elite player again?
A-Rod thinks so.
But he isn’t elaborating.