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Jeter doesn't see relevance of A-Rod story

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."