Though Alex Rodriguez is not expected to return any time soon from his second major hip surgery, he was present at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day.
Rodriguez’s name has popped up more frequently due to allegations he purchased performance-enhancing drugs from the Biogenesis clinic in Miami, Fla. Four years ago, Rodriguez admitted to using them during his three seasons in Texas but Monday he said that in conjunction with the player’s association he would issue a statement denying any use. [embedgallery id= 128718]
As for his recovery, Rodriguez said although missing spring training was disappointing his rehab is going well and that he expects to perform at a high level whenever he returns.
“I think it can be very high,” Rodriguez said. “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. I was able to go in and fix it, rehab and I think once I’m mended and I’m back to being 100 percent, there’s no reason why I can’t play at a very high level.”
In terms of the lowered expectations for the Yankees, Rodriguez also found that hard to believe but felt the team could be motivated by forecasts of a third place, or worse, finish in the AL East.
“I think this year we have a very special opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “This is my 10th year here in New York and this is the first time we’ve been predicted to finish in last place. That’s pretty crazy.”
While Mark Teixeira received a nice hand during pregame introductions, Rodriguez was not introduced.
“I don’t need to be introduced to feel like I’m part of this team,” Rodriguez said. “When I get introduced I want to be on the field and not look back.”
Mo shags fly balls
The pregame preparation for Mariano Rivera was just like any other day for the closer and that meant spending time in the outfield shagging fly balls.
It was the first time Rivera shagged balls since injuring his knee doing the same thing in Kansas City on May 3.
“It felt good,” Rivera said. “I didn’t go full strength but I will at some point.”
Yankees, Red Sox honor Newtown
Before the first pitch, pregame ceremonies featured joint honor guards of Newtown, Conn. police and firefighters as well as a moment of silence for the victims of the Dec. 14 massacre. The victim’s names were listed on the center field video board.
Both teams also wore a special ribbon on their uniforms. The ribbon was painted on the field in front of both dugouts, as it will in all Opening Day games throughout the major leagues.
“We cannot do much,” Rivera said. “We cannot change what happened. I wish we could but at the same time we’re trying to bring them a good moment. We’re trying to take the tragedy away from their minds for a little bit.”
“I think it’s important to say thank you,” manager Joe Girardi said. “The town of Newtown has went through so much during the last four or five months, six months, and you think about being a responder. Sometimes we don’t think about what they go through, and how important they are during a situation like that. I think it’s nice that we’re getting an opportunity to say thank you for all that you do, because they’re obviously going to do more as the future goes on.”
New clubhouse alignment
The Yankees have six players who did not spend any time with the team last year and as a result there was some shifting around in the alignment of lockers.
Opening Day catcher Francisco Cervelli now occupies Nick Swisher’s old spot in the center of the room. Reliever David Robertson has the space occupied by Rafael Soriano adjacent to Rivera.
Robertson’s old locker near the clubhouse door is occupied by Joba Chamberlain while David Phelps moved to Chamberlain’s old space along the row usually occupied by starting pitchers.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.