Yankees say A-Rod may avoid surgery

March 5, 2009 7:29:35 PM PST
Alex Rodriguez will attempt to play this season with an injured right hip, hoping to avoid surgery and a four-month rehabilitation period. A cyst in the hip was drained Wednesday, and the New York Yankees third baseman will skip playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Still, he has a torn labrum that might need an operation.

"There's two courses of action concerning what he has," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Thursday. "There is treat it conservatively, which would imply rest, exercise and treatment. Or you can treat it aggressively, which is by surgery. At this point at in time, we are going to go the conservative route."

The diagnosis by Dr. Marc Philippon, in Vail, Colo., was yet another jolt to Rodriguez during a tumult-filled one-month span in which the three-time AL MVP admitted using banned drugs from 2001-03 while with Texas.

"He's been through a lot, and you probably can go through the last year that he's been through a lot," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He's been pretty good in staying focused in what he has to do. The thing about Alex, we all know how hard he works.

He's able to do a lot of things because of his work ethic, and you hope that carries him though this year as well."

Girardi is concerned Rodriguez could start the regular season and then have to be shut down.

"It's not something you necessarily want to think about," Girardi said. "You watch him closely to make sure there is nothing wrong, and I know Alex will be honest with his body. He'll do everything possible to get on the field, but it's worrisome."

Earlier Thursday, ESPNdeportes.com reported that Rodriguez's brother, Joe Dunand, said the slugger was going to have surgery, with a projected 10-week recovery time.

"If at some point it's not working and it's a problem, then the other one becomes more of a choice," Cashman said. "Right now, the route we're going is conservative."

Cashman said Rodriguez's preference was to try rest and treatment first, but that offseason surgery might be an option.

"We're collectively trying to figure out what is best to do for everybody involved," Cashman said. "We don't want to rush into it. We want to digest it."

Cashman said the team hopes the cyst was the cause of stiffness that had bothered the 12-time All-Star and caused him to see Philippon. Rodriguez was to undergo additional tests in Colorado on Friday.

"Now that it's drained, we're going to see how he responds," Cashman said. "Get a gauge of how much improvement, if at all, there is."

Dr. Struan Coleman of the Hospital for Special Surgery, which treats the New York Mets, said Rodriguez probably could avoid an operation by having heat and cold treatment, but might need an injection to control pain and/or inflammation. Coleman said it is unlikely the injury is related to past steroid use.

"It's quite common in athletes who do a lot of rotational movement in their sport," Coleman said. "This a slowly progressive process. This has been going on a number of years."

Dominican Republic general manager Stan Javier spoke with Rodriguez Thursday.

"The only concern I have right now is I hope he's OK," Javier said. "It's too bad it has happened, but that's baseball and that's life. He told me he might have surgery Sunday or Monday. He said he's going to meet us in Miami to be with the team."

David Ortiz said Rodriguez's on-field presence will be missed by the Dominican players.

"It's a guy we need," Ortiz said. "He's not going to be able to be here. It's crazy. I hope he gets better and comes back in the regular season to do his thing."

The injury potentially leaves a huge hole in the lineup for the Yankees, trying to rebound after missing the playoffs last season following 13 consecutive appearances.

"This will challenge for him, for sure," Hall of Famer Cal Ripken said.

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.

Rodriguez's hip was fine until experiencing stiffness during spring training this year. He was examined by team physician Dr.

Christopher Ahmad and underwent an MRI last Saturday "The MRI we did showed some changes in that hip area," Cashman said. "What he's dealing with now is obviously something more significant. There is no pain, which is a good thing."

Rodriguez's 138 games last season were his fewest since 1999, when he tore the medial meniscus in his left knee during a spring training agility drill on March 30. He played in the first two games of that season with Seattle, then was put on the disabled list April 7 and missed 32 games until he returned May 14.

If Rodriguez is sidelined, New York would have to replace its third baseman and cleanup hitter, behind new first baseman Mark Teixeira.

"That's going to hurt not only this team, but the Yankees," said Robinson Cano, Rodriguez's teammate on both his club and national team. "He's a guy we're going to miss."

The leading internal candidate to take over at third would be Cody Ransom, a 33-year-old who has a .251 average and 24 RBIs in 183 at-bats over six major league seasons.

"I think the team will try and pick up the slack until he's ready," Ransom said. "Hopefully it's not too long. You can't really replace what he does."

Since joining the Yankees before the 2004 season, Rodriguez has averaged 42 homers and 123 RBIs to go along with a .303 batting average.

"He's very important for us," catcher Jorge Posada said. "You lose a guy like him - we've got a good lineup - but he's the guy that puts it all together."

Rodriguez's hip is the latest injury concern for a team worried whether Posada (shoulder), Mariano Rivera (shoulder) and Hideki Matsui (knee) will bounce back from operations.

Posada is hopeful he'll be able to play behind the plate around March 15.

"We just need to stay healthy," Posada said. "Whatever is going to be best for Alex, we understand. We'll go from there. You try to play through the injury, but then also, you don't want to hurt the team."

Rivera threw off a bullpen mound for the first time Thursday, while Matsui made his spring training debut as the designated hitter in the Yankees' 6-0 loss to Canada.

When Rodriguez is able to resume spring training workouts, there will be restrictions.

"I think there's plenty of things that we can do, DHing, and maybe not playing the whole game at any point," Girardi said. "Maybe not asking him to play too many days in a row. Just monitoring his condition everyday. I think you be able to tell."

Easily baseball's highest-paid player with a $32 million salary this season, Rodriguez had been looking forward to the April 16 opener at the $1.5 billion new Yankee Stadium.

"It's worrisome thinking about your club without Alex," Girardi said. "Alex hasn't had any pain. Shocked. I think that's a pretty good way to describe it."


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