Monday, February 21, 2011
Updated: February 22, 9:37 AM ET
A-Rod jokes about popcorn incident
By Andrew Marchand
TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez sat down at the podium for his first spring training press conference and asked the opening question.
"Did anyone watch the Super Bowl?" Rodriguez said with a smile.
Rodriguez made light of his Super Bowl appearance in which he was shown on TV being fed popcorn by his girlfriend, actress Cameron Diaz. Rodriguez said that a report that he went "ballistic" at Fox for showing him was false.
"That was pretty humorous," Rodriguez said. "Absolutely not, but five or six years ago I probably would have come out with some bogus statement."
Rodriguez has come into camp lighter, having lost seven or eight pounds, he said, which he hopes combines with improvement in his surgically repaired hip to lead him to better production in the field and at the plate. Rodriguez will continue to have the hip examined twice a year. He didn't completely rule out the possibility that he could face another operation in the future.
The Yankees noticed that Rodriguez was not moving the same defensively because of his added weight in recent years.
"No question, he's gotten bigger the last few years and his defense has suffered for it," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "He'll be cat-like quick out there this year."
The Yankees are coming off a six-game loss to Texas in the AL Championship Series, which followed a season in which A-Rod won his first World Series ring.
"I hear there's a lot of doubters out there, which is fun," Rodriguez said. "We were two wins shy of the World Series. With the exception of Swish [Nick Swisher] and Robbie [Robinson Cano], I think the other seven guys, if you ask them, all of us would say there's a lot of room for improvement. And that starts with me."
The Yankees will likely eventually move Rodriguez to designated hitter, but the 35-year-old wants to stall the move as long as possible.
"My hero was Cal Ripken and I think he played until 39 or 40," said Rodriguez. Ripken played until he was 40.
Rodriguez noticed a difference in his fielding last year, especially toward the end of the season.
"I thought the ones that I caught, I caught pretty good," Rodriguez said. "I found a little hesitation in my lateral movement that I've addressed this winter and I expect it to be much better."
Rodriguez hit .270 with 30 homers and 125 RBIs last year.
When asked what he was focused on, Rodriguez said "28," which would be the Yankees' total of World Series titles with another one.
"I think all the guys are ready for the challenge," Rodriguez said. "The feeling we were left with in Texas was not good."
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.