|ESPN.com: Baseball||[Print without images]|
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez believes the New York Yankees do not want him to return this season, and perhaps ever again, a source told ESPNNewYork.com.
According to the source, Rodriguez thinks the Yankees are deliberately slowing his return to their active roster in the hope they can have him declared medically unfit to play this season, enabling them to recoup 80 percent of his $28 million salary through insurance.
"Alex thinks there's something really off about this situation," the source said. "Here we have a doctor declaring him fit to play. You think they would be happy about that."
Instead, Rodriguez's tweet Tuesday night -- "Visit from Dr. [Bryan] Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news -- the green light to play games again!" -- was met with an angry response from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who told ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand, "You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will]. Alex should just shut the f--- up."
According to the source, Rodriguez felt the GM's response was "over the top," and cemented his belief that the Yankees have been looking for ways to rid themselves of the 10-year, $275 million contract they gave him after the 2007 season.
"Alex thinks it's all about the insurance," the source said. "How could it not be?"
According to the source, Rodriguez believes the Yankees are delaying his return hoping time will run out for him to come back this season, or that Major League Baseball will hand down a lengthy suspension for his alleged involvement with Miami-area anti-aging clinic Biogenesis and its founder, Anthony Bosch, who is suspected of supplying numerous major leaguers with illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Both Cashman and team president Randy Levine strongly denied that the Yankees would prefer A-Rod not return to play this season.
"False and false," Cashman said to both theories. "He's not being slowed down or anything. Make no mistake; if Alex Rodriguez is healthy, we want him, and I want him, playing third base for us yesterday. We're clearly a better team with him. We're taking every step in the process, but we can't have him unless he's ready. Period."
Added Levine: "Nobody wants to delay him. The sooner he comes back, the better. If he comes back healthy, he'll really help us to be a better team, and that's what this is all about."
Yankees spokesman Jason Zillo said in a statement that Rodriguez, Cashman and Levine spoke Wednesday evening.
"Alex called Cashman around 5:30 [p.m.], Cashman got Randy Levine on the phone, and they spoke for close to 30 minutes," the statement said. "It was a constructive, healthy conversation. Everybody is on the same page. And we're all going to communicate and work together to get Alex back as quickly as possible. Everyone fully understands the protocol and processes in place. We're all back on track."
As to the allegation that the team is delaying in hopes that MLB will sideline A-Rod before the Yankees determine he is ready to return, Cashman said, "We have no knowledge of where the Biogenesis stuff is except for what I read in the papers. Baseball's in charge of this stuff. We're not a part of that process. They're not keeping us in the loop or making us aware of anything. For us, it's business as usual until they tell us otherwise."
There is little doubt that Rodriguez's relationship with the team has deteriorated since he signed the new contract following his 2007 MVP season, beginning with his admission that he used steroids while a member of the Texas Rangers.
The rift between the Yankees and A-Rod clearly widened last October, when, while mired in a 2-for-25 slump during the playoffs, manager Joe Girardi pinch-hit for him three times and benched him for three games, including two potential elimination games.
In addition, a story emerged that A-Rod had flirted with some women seated behind the Yankees' dugout while the team was in the process of losing Game 1 of the AL Championship Series to the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees never have officially refuted the story, and in fact, several team officials have privately confirmed it.
According to the source in A-Rod's camp, prior to Wednesday night, neither Cashman nor Levine had spoken to the player "in months," further fueling Rodriguez's suspicion that the Yankees are looking to rid themselves of him.
"Nobody ever talks to him," the source said. "Isn't it odd that the GM isn't keeping in touch with his highest-paid player?"
Before their phone conversation Wednesday night, Cashman acknowledged that he and A-Rod had not spoken in more than a month but said that was not unusual with a player rehabbing an injury.
"I don't, typically," he said. "Like Kevin Youkilis, if a guy is having surgery, I'll reach out before the surgery. But when guys go down to Tampa, I talk to the trainers. [Derek] Jeter was up here the other day, but I didn't talk to Jeter when he was down in Tampa. I saw [Mark] Teixeira in Trenton, but I didn't talk to him while he was in Tampa. When those guys are doing their rehab, they're in good hands and I'm communicating via the trainers, the doctors and the field staff. I don't reach out to those guys every week or so to ask how they're doing because I'm getting that already."According to Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner and Rodriguez spoke Wednesday morning. "Obviously, Hal is the boss," Cashman said. "He had a conversation with Hal, and so that's good enough for him, I suspect." According to Cashman, Hal was working out in the team weight room when Rodriguez approached him and initiated a conversation. "Hal reiterated -- he did it more professionally maybe than I did -- but he repeated [the importance of] managing from the top down rather than from the bottom up," Cashman said, adding that Steinbrenner had "reminded him about this social media stuff."
And while Cashman began his nearly 25-minute media session by saying, "I regret my choice of words to ESPN New York" on Tuesday night, he did not apologize for the emotion behind them.
"Hal delivered the same message and [Rodriguez] got the message, I know that," Cashman said. "He had obviously a nice conversation with Hal, according to Hal, and then obviously my message was a different version. But the same nonetheless."
Cashman said that what angered him about the tweet was the firestorm it set off in the media after the ESPNNewYork.com story appeared Tuesday night.
"While the game's going on [Tuesday] night, the last thing I wanted as general manager of the Yankees watching [Yu] Darvish and [Hiroki] Kuroda hook up in a great battle was to be dealing with something that we didn't create," Cashman said.
He also said Rodriguez was aware of team protocols involving medical rehabs and the use of social media. Many Yankees have Twitter accounts and at least two others, Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, have tweeted accounts of their own rehabilitation from injuries.
"Whatever Mark was tweeting, it didn't come across my desk," Cashman said. "I know Alex created a Twitter account just two weeks ago, three weeks ago, and I know he has tweeted out he's lifting, feeling good, stuff like that. I never got calls on that. But Kelly is not clearing his rehab. It's just not accurate, that's all, and believe me, with the season that we have had so far, I've got a lot of extra work. Clearly yesterday, with the timing of this, I was like, 'I don't want to deal with this.' It was how I felt about having to deal with something I thought was not necessary."
Cashman also said he did not believe Rodriguez's tweet was intended to cause a firestorm.
"I think he was putting out information that he was excited about, and not recognizing that everything he says has a direct impact on something else. Do I think he thought that out before he said it? No. But by then, I was dealing with the media calls and then the runaway train started.
"Obviously, anything involving Alex becomes bigger news."