Jeter doesn't see relevance of A-Rod story

Updated: February 20, 2007, 8:33 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Maintaining they have a fine relationship on the field and in the clubhouse, Derek Jeter resolutely refused to discuss the deterioration of his friendship with Alex Rodriguez away from the ballpark.

"It's annoying to hear about it all the time. Everyone assumes they know what our relationship is. Everyone assumes -- they see us on the field, if one person gives another one a look, it's a story. If we're at opposite ends of the bench, people say it's a story."
-- Derek Jeter

One day after A-Rod finally acknowledged the pair no longer are best friends, Jeter sat in the same first-base dugout at Legends Field and was asked to respond.

"I don't have a rift with Alex," the New York Yankees captain said Tuesday. "We go out there. We work together. This is our fourth year to be playing together. It's annoying to hear about it all the time. Everyone assumes they know what our relationship is. Everyone assumes -- they see us on the field, if one person gives another one a look, it's a story. If we're at opposite ends of the bench, people say it's a story."

On Tuesday, A-Rod said he felt relieved to speak his mind.

"That's as honest as I've been here since I've been here, the four years, and that part of it felt good," Rodriguez said Tuesday as he left Legends Field.

Shortly after arriving at spring training on Monday, Rodriguez said it was time for him to stop pretending that his relationship with Jeter was as close as it was in the 1990s. The pair have drifted apart since Rodriguez made critical remarks in a 2001 Esquire article.

"I don't see the relevance of it," Jeter said. "It has no bearing on us playing baseball."

Jeter refused to say how close he and Rodriguez are away from the ballpark.

"How would I characterize it? I would characterize it as it doesn't make a difference," he said. "What we do away from the field, how much time we spend together, really makes no difference when we're playing."

Coming up through the Yankees' organization and becoming a key component of the unit that won four World Series titles from 1996-2000, Jeter has worked hard to avoid discussing his private life.

"I understand my job is public, but your personal life is your personal life. Once you open that door, it doesn't stop," he said. "Away from the field, people want to keep tabs on how many times we go out to eat, things like that. That has no bearing on what we're trying to do."

Jeter was criticized by some last year for not voicing sufficient support for Rodriguez, who struggled during the regular season and was booed at Yankee Stadium.

"From Day One I've said I support Alex," he said. "The only thing I'm not going to do is tell the fans what to do. ... I don't think it's my job to tell fans to boo or not to boo."

Rodriguez said he felt a need to conform during his first three seasons in New York. He appears to be taking a different tack this year.

"I just found myself trying to say always the right things and trying not to screw up," he said. "And I think that came across for some people as very disingenuous and phony perhaps -- those are the things you hear. If you're going to get chopped up into pieces, you might as well be as honest as you can and get ripped for it."

He thinks he'll be more at ease going forward.

"You get a little gun-shy, that's all," he said. "It all comes down to being yourself."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press