NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez stood in the Yankee Stadium tunnel, just in front of the entrance to the home clubhouse.
He was willing to answer questions for the first time since hip surgery in January, but was positioned so he could make a quick getaway if he wanted to stop responding.
“I love when all these people say, ‘You can’t do this. You can’t do that. You’re done. You’re old,’” he explained before New York’s opener against Boston on Monday. “It’s a great challenge to prove all you guys wrong and everyone wrong.”
Three months shy of his 38th birthday, Rodriguez has transformed from three-time Most Valuable Player to most touchy subject. He’s owed $114 million in the remaining five years of his record $275 million, 10-year contract, and he’s viewed by many Yankees fans and even some in the team’s management as a drain on the club’s payroll.
And that was before a January report in Miami New Times alleging he received performance-enhancing drugs from a Florida anti-aging clinic.
Making his first public comments since the Jan. 16 operation on his left hip, Rodriguez said he has heard the same schedule for his return that surgeon Dr. Bryan Kelly made public: sometime around the All-Star break. And Rodriguez says he thinks he can return to perform at the level he once did.
“When I found out after the season was over about the big tear in my left hip, it was a bit of a relief to realize and understand how you ended last year,” he said. “Once it’s mended and I’m back to being 100 percent, there’s no reason why I can’t play at a very high level.”
Rodriguez hasn’t played a full season since 2007, missing time because of a strained quadriceps (2008), right hip surgery (2009), a strained calf (2010), knee surgery (2011) and a broken hand (2012). Before the latest hip injury was discovered, he was benched in three of nine postseason games and pinch hit for in three others. He batted .120 (3 for 25) with no RBIs in the playoffs, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handers.