Jeter supports Rodriguez, says don't label sport

February 18, 2009 6:10:54 PM PST
Derek Jeter played it right down the middle with Alex Rodriguez: Didn't like what he did, time to move on. A day after Rodriguez tried to explain his use of performance-enhancing drugs, Jeter responded.

"We're here to support him through it," the Yankees captain said Wednesday. "I don't condone what he did. We don't condone what he did. And Alex doesn't condone what he did. And I think at this point now it's our jobs to try to help him be as comfortable as he can on the field and try to move past this."

With all the focus on A-Rod, Jeter bristled at those who continue to group all players together.

"One thing that is irritating and it really upsets me a lot is when you hear everybody say, `It was the steroid era. Everybody was doing it.' You know, that's not true. Everybody was not doing it," he said.

"I think it sends the wrong message to fans, to baseball fans; I think it sends the wrong message to kids, saying that everybody was doing it, because that's just not the truth," he said. "I understand there's a lot of people who are big-name players that have come out and allegedly done this and done that, but everybody wasn't doing it."

Jeter's plea to acknowledge the clean players came after an opening workout in which photographers and cameras tailed behind Rodriguez for two hours at New York's spring training complex.

Manager Joe Girardi said A-Rod's talent automatically makes him a focal point.

"It would be hard to say that to Michael Jordan when he walked into the stadium, `Don't be the center of attention,"' Girardi said.

A-Rod was the last of 60-plus Yankees to take the field, sprinting from the right-field corner. Some of the 1,600 or so fans gathered under a near-cloudless sky at Steinbrenner Field cheered when they saw No. 13. A few yelled out encouraging words. Not a single boo or insult was heard.

Rodriguez reported for spring training on Tuesday and held a 32-minute news conference, his first since Sport Illustrated reported on its Web site Feb. 7 that he was on a list of 104 players who tested positive for steroids during baseball's anonymous 2003 survey.

Rodriguez had admitted to ESPN on Feb. 9 that he used banned substances while playing for Texas from 2001-03, and he expanded on his story during his news conference. He claimed a cousin - whom he would not identify - repeatedly injected him during those years with a mysterious substance from the Dominican Republic called "boli."

Catcher Jorge Posada, seated in the from row Tuesday along with Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, felt for Rodriguez when the star third baseman took a 37-second pause before thanking teammates.

"He just got emotional. I think everybody in that room knew what he was going through at that point. It's tough to look at your teammates in the eye, and tell them, you know, `I'm sorry,"' Posada said.

Posada left midway through the news conference because he had to take his family to the airport. More than 20 players attended, and most stayed until the end.

"I think that he'll be good," said Pettitte, who had a similar confessional news conference last year. "I think he'll be able to put it behind him. I know we're all hoping and pulling for it, that's for sure."

Notes: Hideki Matsui, recovering from left knee surgery on Sept. 22, will be limited to DH duty during spring training, manager Joe Girardi said. Matsui won't start running until next week. ... Switch-hitting Mark Teixeira will bat third, followed by Rodriguez. The lefty-swinging Matsui is a possibility for the No. 5 slot. "You got one of the best players in the history of baseball hitting behind you, I think you're going to get some good pitches to hit," Teixeira said. ... 2B Robinson Cano reiterated that he will play for the Dominican Republic in next month's World Baseball Classic. Melky Cabrera, competing with Brett Gardner to play center, will not play for the DR and RHP Alfredo Aceves will not play for Mexico.


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