Sunday, March 8, 2009
Updated: March 9, 1:10 PM ET
A-Rod to have arthroscopic hip surgery
ESPN.com news services
TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez's spring training saga took another surprising turn: He's headed for hip surgery Monday that will sideline him for six to nine weeks -- and that's not all.
The New York Yankees slugger will need a second operation after the season, assuming he can play all the way through. Dr. Marc Philippon, who will perform the operation in Colorado, said he's confident Rodriguez will be able to do that after he recovers from surgery.
"Well, it's better than him missing the whole year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It could have been a lot worse."
The decision Sunday came after Rodriguez and the Yankees spent the week mulling treatment options for his torn labrum, and it was yet another jolt to the three-time MVP during a tumultuous month in which he admitted using steroids from 2001 to '03 with Texas.
The arthroscopic procedure that was chosen gives Rodriguez a chance to return early this season -- general manager Brian Cashman said he expects A-Rod back "sometime in May." But it also means he'll need another, more extensive operation in the fall.
Rodriguez and the Yankees decided to put off that surgery, which likely would have kept him out until at least July because it could require three to four months of rehabilitation.
Still, his injury not only leaves the Yankees with a huge hole at third base and in the middle of their lineup, it causes major concerns about the health of a player in the second year of a record $275 million, 10-year contract.
A noted hip specialist with the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic, Philippon spoke to reporters from Vail, Colo., on a conference call Sunday with Cashman. Also on the call was team physician Chris Ahmad.
Philippon is confident in the "85-90 percent range" that Rodriguez will be able to play through the entire regular season. He also said it's more likely that A-Rod's recovery will take closer to six weeks rather than nine.
"I firmly believe this approach will be successful and allow Alex to return," Philippon said. "We've had very good success with this approach. Short term, we feel the risk is very limited that he will re-tear his labrum during that six-, seven-month period."
The decision eliminates the option of Rodriguez treating the injury with rest and rehab and playing through the season without surgery. But this operation will not completely correct the hip.
"The surgery that will just repair the labrum tear right now would shorten his rehab," Cashman said. "Then, following the conclusion of the season, going in and repair the remaining aspects that need to be repaired."
Now that a treatment plan has been chosen, Cashman said Rodriguez is feeling better.
"When it first happened, he said he was 'bummed.' That was the exact word," Cashman said. "Alex texted me and he was really positive. He is excited. This is what he wanted to do."
Rodriguez also has a cyst in his right hip that was drained Wednesday. He had additional tests Friday to test the hip's strength and flexibility.
Once he returns to the lineup, Rodriguez will likely get more days off than usual.
Cashman could not guarantee that A-Rod will be ready for the start of spring training next year following the second surgery this fall.
The Yankees have an insurance policy that will reimburse some of Rodriguez's $32 million salary this year, a baseball official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team doesn't discuss insurance publicly. Typically, insurance on baseball contracts pays back a team a specified percentage of the salary of a player on the disabled list, after a period of days for a deductible.
Rodriguez's hip had been fine until he experienced stiffness during spring training this year. The injury forced the 12-time All-Star to skip the World Baseball Classic, where he was to play for the Dominican Republic.
Philippon attributed the labrum tear to the rotational stress that Rodriguez -- "a very strong hitter, strong batter" -- places on his hip.
"Because of all the test findings, analysis, the function of Alex, I feel it's in his best interest to have his labrum repaired, remove part of his impingement and therefore stabilize his labrum," he said. "The goal here is to allow Alex to rehab rapidly in a safe manner."
Rodriguez will stay in Colorado for the foreseeable future.
"We'll keep Alex with us certainly for the first few weeks," said Philippon, who has treated several sports stars including golfer Greg Norman and figure skater Tara Lipinski. "The main reason being we're going to put him on the fast track so we will be very aggressive on his rehab. We'll check on Alex twice a day."
Rodriguez could swing a bat as a range-of-motion drill as soon as seven days after surgery.
"It's better news than some of the reports. It's good for him. He can get that out of the way and hopefully get back to us soon," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said at the WBC in Toronto. "We can't sit around and wait for him to come back. You've got to go out there and play. That's what good teams are about. It's more than one person."
On Thursday, Rodriguez's brother, Joe Dunand, told ESPNdeportes.com that the slugger was going to have surgery, with a projected 10-week recovery. But later that day Cashman said A-Rod would be treated conservatively in the hope of avoiding surgery.
Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon, speaking from Lakeland, where New York played the Detroit Tigers, said Rodriguez was doing the "right thing" in addressing the injury now.
"Now we know that we're going to lose him for a little bit of time," Damon said. "I think it's better to get it out of the way, especially since he's going to be in New York for eight more years after this year. So you might as well take care of it."
A.J. Burnett, who allowed one hit over two scoreless innings in Sunday's 12-3 win over Detroit, said Rodriguez's injury is "a big loss, of course."
"He's one of the greatest hitters, if not the greatest in the game," Burnett said. "For us, it's hold the fort until he gets back. You can't fill his shoes. It's a big blow, but he'll be back. You have to look at it that way."
The leading candidate within the organization to take over at third is Cody Ransom, a 33-year-old who has a .251 average and 24 RBIs in 183 at-bats over six major league seasons.
Since joining the Yankees before the 2004 season, Rodriguez has averaged 42 homers and 123 RBIs, with a .303 average.
Girardi said if the season started today, Ransom would replace Rodriguez at third.
"It's going to create something different for us, so we're going to have to take a look at some of these other guys," Girardi said. "There's still four weeks left in camp, and it opens up an opportunity for someone."
Last year, Rodriguez was sidelined from April 28 to May 20 because of a strained right quadriceps -- his fifth career trip to the disabled list. An MRI exam at that time showed what Cashman called an "irregularity" in the right hip.
The labrum is cartilage that lines the hip joint. It can be torn through injury or repetitive wear and tear. When arthroscopic surgery is recommended, the doctor makes small incisions to insert specialized instruments into the joint space and either removes the torn piece of labrum or repairs the cartilage with a suture.
Dr. Kevin Plancher, a top orthopedic and sports medicine specialist in New York who trained and worked at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic, said hip conditions such as A-Rod's are common in sports but are probably most prevalent among hockey players.
Information from ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.