TAMPA, Fla. — Alex Rodriguez declared himself fit and ready to play “north of 145, 150 games and let the chips fall where they may” for the New York Yankees this season, two months after having an unorthodox blood-spinning therapy in Germany to relieve knee and shoulder injuries that limited him to just 99 games in 2011.
And the bulk of those games, he said, will be played at third base.
“First of all, let me just say this. I don’t train and prepare to be a DH,” Rodriguez said, somewhat defiantly, during a 24-minute news conference after the Yankees’ first day of full squad workouts.
“I’m definitely not a DH. I’ll obviously defer to (manager) Joe (Girardi), and I’ll do exactly what he wants me to do, but it’s definitely important for me to throw a very big number out there of playing third base. I don’t see any slowing down defensively. I think it’s important for our team to collect more wins and be more productive and have a longer lineup by me playing third base.”
Despite the signing of Raul Ibanez and the re-signing of Andruw Jones to handle the bulk of the DH duties, Girardi has made it clear that all of his veteran everyday players, especially Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira, will get regular DH days in order to keep them fresh throughout the season.
“I’m not saying that I’m going to go out and play 150 games at third base,” said Rodriguez, who played just 89 games at third last season and hasn’t played as many as 150 since his MVP season of 2007, when he played 154. “I think I’ll let Joe make that decision. But it is important for me to be out there and play third base for our team to win more games.”
Rodriguez, who will turn 37 in July, attributed his good health entering this training camp to undergoing Orthokine therapy, in which a patient’s own blood is removed, spun in a centrifuge, and injected back into the affected areas. Rodriguez said he had the therapy both on his right knee, which was operated on for a torn meniscus last July, and into his left shoulder, which troubled him for much of the season.
According to A-Rod, the treatment was recommended to him over dinner by Los Angeles Lakers start Kobe Bryant, who referred him to Dr. Peter Wehling at the Center for Orthopaedics and Molecular Medicine in Dusseldorf.
“(Bryant) was really adamant about how great the procedure was for him,” Rodriguez said. “I know that he was hurting before, almost even thinking about retirement, that’s how much pain he was under. And then he said after he went to Germany he felt like a 27-year-old again. I was still a little apprehensive about it and he kept staying on me about it.”
After receiving approval from the Yankees medical staff and front office, Rodriguez had the treatment between Dec. 5-9. “After the third day it felt pretty darn good,” Rodriguez said. “Now if I can play as well as Kobe, we’re in business.”
The Yankees would prefer Rodriguez play as well as A-Rod, the three-time MVP who hit 54 home runs, drove in 156 and batted .314 for them in 2007. But his last three seasons have been injury-plagued, including stints on the DL for knee and hip surgery and a sprained thumb suffered diving for a ball in his first game back in August.
He is signed through the 2017 season, during which he will turn 42, and the Yankees enthusiasm must be tempered by the memory of last spring, when he also came to camp well-conditioned and claiming to feel healthy. He followed that with an excellent spring but was soon beset by the injuries that limited his production to career lows in HRs (16), RBIs (62) and slugging percentage (.461).
“I think the best thing we can do is listen to what he says and watch with our eyes to keep him strong and healthy,” Girardi said. “I know I have to watch him carefully because he’s really important to this team.”
Rodriguez touched on a variety of topics during his news conference, ranging from Ryan Braun winning his appeal of a positive drug test (“I’d rather not comment on that. I learned several years ago to stay in my very small circle of competence.”) to how much longer he thinks he can play (“No one can play forever (but) I think avoiding the injury bug, I can play at a really high level for a long time”) and the phenomenon known as Linsanity.
“Wow, what a run,” he said of the furor surrounding New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin. “The great thing about Linsanity is it kind of reminds you how fun the game should be. For some of us that have been playing for a long time, it makes you realize how much fun the game is. If he’s still looking for a place to crash, maybe he can crash at my apartment. Imagine the tabloids then.”
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.
Follow Wallace Matthews on Twitter: @ESPNNYYankees
Healthy A-Rod wants to play at 3B and not DH
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