A-Rod works out in Tampa

Updated: February 19, 2009, 1:43 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Derek Jeter wants fans to remember the clean guys.

The New York Yankees captain sat in the first-base dugout after his team's first full-squad workout of the season Wednesday, expressed support for Alex Rodriguez and tried to get a message out that will prevent the public from viewing the entire sport as tainted.

"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.

With all the focus on A-Rod and his admission of using performance-enhancing drugs on Tuesday, Jeter bristled at those who group all players together.

"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."

His plea to remember the clean players came after an opening workout in which photographers and cameras tailed behind Rodriguez for two hours at the Yankees' spring training complex. Yankees 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 just as the first shuffle run began. 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.

Based on Wednesday's small sample, Yankees fans are as forgiving as Rodriguez's teammates.

"We're here to support him through it," Jeter said. "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."

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. He 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."

The players' association was contacted by the commissioner's office Wednesday to set up an interview involving Rodriguez and the sport's investigations department, union general counsel Michael Weiner said. Weiner said the interview will be non-disciplinary in nature but declined further comment.

Catcher Jorge Posada, seated in the from row Tuesday along with Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, got sad when Rodriguez 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.

He 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."

With photographers and television cameras tailing him around the complex, Rodriguez spent most of Wednesday's workout on a back field behind the first-base stands. The three-time AL MVP fielded grounders, hit in an indoor cage with Hideki Matsui and Juan Miranda, took batting practice on the back field with Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Colin Curtis, and finished with bunting in the bullpen.

After conditioning on the field behind the third-base stands, A-Rod returned to the clubhouse, went to the players' lounge and then to the weight room. He showered and dressed, then left without commenting on his day other than to say, "Talk tomorrow."

Jeter said he maintained his respect for Rodriguez, and he hoped Wednesday would be the last time people questioned him about Rodriguez's admission. Ever since A-Rod joined the Yankees in 2004, Jeter has had to face questions about his friendship with his former rival, which deteriorated after a 2001 Esquire article in which A-Rod made critical remarks.

"I get tired of hearing about things about our relationship," Jeter said. "That's an old story."

Others in baseball were ready to turn the page on the A-Rod saga.

"I was disappointed just like every fan," St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols said on Wednesday. "Everybody in the sport was disappointed about what A-Rod did in 2001 to 2003. But you know, don't judge him by what he did, like he said [Tuesday], don't judge him by what he did in the past, just judge him by what is happening right now. When he shows up in spring training, like he did yesterday, see what he's going to do from now on with his life."

Pujols understands the damage that Rodriguez's revelation has caused, however.

"I know a lot of kids are that are hurt right now because A-Rod was one of their heroes," he said. "All you can do is turn the page and just move on."

Former Yankees and current Dodgers manager Joe Torre thinks that A-Rod will be helped to move on by the Yankee family, as evidenced by Jeter's support.

Torre wasn't surprised by the commotion in Tampa, Fla., or that Rodriguez was supported by a large contingent of teammates.

"For New York, it's run-of-the-mill stuff," Torre said Wednesday. "I don't want to make light of it, but as far as distractions and stuff going on in spring training and during the season, it's what happens there on a regular basis.

"I just know how important his baseball is to Alex. I hope he handles it all right. It's all uncharted waters right now. I know one thing, and it's evidenced by how many players and staff were there -- that's what the Yankees are all about. That will help him more than anything else."

But Rodriguez will also stand in a little brighter spotlight.

"Everything is different because it's Alex," Torre said. "I told him a few years ago life is unfair to you in a lot of ways because the expectations are so high. I certainly didn't have this in mind when I was telling him that. But he's a big boy, and he's certainly called attention to himself by the way he's played the game and how much money he makes.

"The rest of the stuff has to go with that."

Notes
Matsui, recovering from left knee surgery on Sept. 22, will be limited to DH during spring training, Girardi said. Matsui won't start running until next week. ... Switch-hitting Teixeira will bat third and be followed by Rodriguez, with the left-handed-hitting Matsui 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press