Alex Rodriguez spoke briefly after batting practice — and the conversation was not about the legal matters concerning the third baseman.
Rodriguez declined to talk about his legal troubles, using variations of the word “shutting it down” and threatening that the on-field interview would end.
“That’s behind us now,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve shut everything down. I think it’s the best thing to do for all of us, to focus on the game. We’re in the middle of a pennant race. I want to put all the focus back on baseball.”
The focus will rarely be on baseball for Rodriguez, who faces the evidence MLB has against him when he appeals the 211-game suspension for his association with the now-closed Biogenesis clinic. The clinic’s founder, Anthony Bosch, has provided a majority of the damaging evidence to MLB.
“I’ve shut it down,” he said. “The focus is on baseball. Publicly, I want everything to be 100 percent about baseball. We’re very focused on making the postseason and that’s what I want all our guys to be focused on.”
Rodriguez’s stance of not discussing the legal issues also applied to the five-game suspension Ryan Dempster received for hitting him Sunday night. While various Yankees were upset with the penalty, Rodriguez declined to discuss it.
“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing to do with that,” Rodriguez said. “Like I told you guys in Boston, I’m the wrong guy to be talking about that.”
Rodriguez’s stance comes less than a week after CBS “60 Minutes” reported that he ratted on Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli, who also were handed suspensions.
The approach of not saying anything about legal matters also comes two days after lawyer Joe Tacopina went on the “Today” show and was confronted by host Matt Lauer. Lauer presented Tacopina with a letter from MLB saying it was willing to waive the confidentially agreement in the Joint Drug Agreement and release the evidence. Tacopina would not sign the letter.
“The past is the past,” Rodriguez said. “Right now, the most important thing is our first playoff game starts tonight, and every game is important. Playoffs is what we’re thinking about right now. That’s the reason why I shut everything down.
“Not with this new approach that we have. The focus is to be back on the field. There are so many great stories going on in baseball, and for us, we really just want to focus on playing good baseball, and 100 percent have all the questions be about baseball. If there’s any question in the future that are not about baseball, the interview will end at that moment.”
As for Rodriguez’s on-field activities, he had the night off for the second time since returning to the Yankees on Aug. 5.
Manager Joe Girardi said it was not related to his physical condition but based on the fact Rodriguez had played twice in Tuesday’s doubleheader.
Rodriguez saw his average go from .320 to .296 as he had one of his worst days since coming back. After hitting his second home run in Sunday’s win at Boston, Rodriguez was 1-for-7 and struck out five times.
“It all goes into planning ahead and what we’re going to do tomorrow,” Girardi said. “I felt like if I couldn’t play both him [Wednesday night] and [Thursday], I think it’s probably too much. So I chose to give him tonight and play him tomorrow.”
Girardi reiterated that the move is merely a precaution and not related to any injury for Rodriguez, whose other day off was Aug. 10 against Detroit after he had three strikeouts in his first home game of the season.
“Precautionary, we’re in a stretch of nine games in a row and with two games that we were playing yesterday,” Girardi said. “I just thought I’m going to give him one of them off because of what I’m probably going to do tomorrow. I decided it was best today.”
Jeter to rehab in Scranton again
The Derek Jeter injury rehab tour is making a return visit to Scranton.
The Yankees announced Wednesday that Jeter will appear in a rehab game as he tries to return from a right calf injury.
Jeter played four games there July 6-10 and was 1-for-9. He was slated for a fifth rehab game but the Yankees decided to activate him for their game with Kansas City on July 11 when he injured his quad.
Jeter did not play any rehab games the last time he was on the DL and it seemed to go well initially as he hit a home run on the first pitch he saw on July 28. Jeter, however, injured his calf on the subsequent road trip and was placed on the DL Aug. 5 just as the Rodriguez show was starting in Chicago.
This time the Yankees are going to be more cautious. They said he will play at least two games and appear for five innings in the field.
“As I’ve said, we’ll just go day-by-day and see how he responds each day,” Girardi said.
Girardi also didn’t think Jeter would return Friday when the Yankees begin a six-game trip on artificial turf fields in Tampa Bay and Toronto.
Yankees linked to Morneau?
The Yankee lineup came into Wednesday’s game hitting .317 in the last two weeks. The lineup has produced 16 home runs, increased its on-base percentage eight points to .311 and raised the team OPS 20 points to .689.
Those numbers still rank in the lower half of the league, which is why they may pursue another bat before next Friday’s waiver deadline. Teams can still make trades after Aug. 31 but anyone acquired beyond that date is not eligible to be on a postseason roster.
The Yankees are running out their most major league-capable lineup of the season during a stretch that has seen them win nine of 12 games following a dreary three-game sweep by the White Sox that coincided with the return of Rodriguez from his second hip injury.
Among the names that could become available is Minnesota’s Justin Morneau. Morneau had a frustrating time at Yankee Stadium last month going 1-for-7 in the first two games before having a three-hit day in the final game.
Including his 3-for-5 on July 14, Morneau is hitting .266 in his last 33 games but after a four-hit night in Detroit on Tuesday, Morneau is batting .294 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs this month.
Morneau has already cleared waivers and has more than $3 million owed to him this season before becoming a free agent.
There don’t seem to be any indications the Yankees are actually interested in Morneau though a report from Minnesota indicated otherwise. According to ESPN radio reporter Darren Wolfson, via Twitter, the Yankees are “back in it” as it concerns Morneau.
Other teams reportedly interested in renting Morneau for the duration of the season are Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Despite having the lead in the NL Central since July 29, the Pirates have gotten a .258 average from their first baseman while the Orioles’ designated hitters have batted less than .220.
Last Thursday, the Yankees did not claim Morneau and that night they added Mark Reynolds to hit against lefties. They also looked into Morneau before acquiring Alfonso Soriano from the Cubs.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.