Sunday, February 24, 2008

A-Rod Says He Expects Questions on Drugs

A-Rod Says He Expects Questions on Drugs

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alex Rodriguez sat in the first-base dugout at Legends Field, surrounded by the usual circle of cameras, microphones and reporters. He knows the scrutiny will only increase as he approaches Barry Bonds' career home-run record, especially in an era when all top athletes must prove they haven't juiced up on performance-enhancing drugs.

In his first session with reporters during spring training, Rodriguez talked about baseball's drug-testing program and made a curious statement.

"Last year, I got tested 9-to-10 times," Rodriguez said. "We have a very, very strict policy, and I think the game is making tremendous strides."

Rodriguez could have been exaggerating about the amount of tests, he could have been selected for an unusually high number of checks or he might have dropped a clue to something else.

Under baseball's drug-testing rules, players are tested at least twice: within five days of arriving at spring training and again at a randomly picked unannounced date. There also are 600 additional random tests throughout the major leagues, of which as many as 60 may be conducted during the offseason.

If Rodriguez's statement was correct, that means he was selected repeatedly for the random tests. Another possible explanation is that he tested positive for a stimulant, which would have subjected him to six additional unannounced tests over the following year.

Initial positive tests for stimulants are not subject to discipline and are not announced.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that because of the confidentiality of baseball's drug program, he didn't know if Rodriguez was tested that many times. Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, and Michael Weiner, general counsel of the players' association, didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

"I don't know many times he was tested. We don't talk about that," baseball spokesman Rich Levin said. "Theoretically, it is possible. But I don't know if he was just throwing those numbers out."

Rodriguez wasn't available for questions after the Yankees' workout.

"Right now, the game is in a very not-trusting situation with our public, with our fans," A-Rod said during his morning session with reporters. "Some of the things that I've accomplished and potentially some of the things that people think I can accomplish, my name has come up and will probably come up again in the future."

A-Rod stated categorically that he had never taken steroids or human growth hormone. He said he isn't worried about Jose Canseco, who has hinted without going into detail that he will make allegations of some sort against Rodriguez in an upcoming book.

Rodriguez also denied a claim last week by former Texas teammate John Rocker that doctors from management and the players' association told A-Rod, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez and Rocker following a spring training meeting how to effectively use steroids. Rodriguez and Rocker were with the Rangers in 2002.

"That did not happen," A-Rod said.

Rodriguez said he still hasn't spoken with Scott Boras since negotiating his new contract without his longtime agent. A-Rod, however, has been dealing with others in Boras' office.

Rodriguez signed a record $275 million, 10-year contract to remain with the New York Yankees.

Just 32, he is an 11-time All-Star who led the with 54 home runs and 156 RBIs last season and won his third AL MVP award. Heading into this year, he's 17th on the career list with 518 home runs, 244 behind the record Bonds established last year.

He wouldn't talk about why he opted out of his record $252 million, 10-year contract last October only to return a few weeks later.

"It was just a big misunderstanding," Yankees senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner said. "We really didn't know that he wanted to come back and he was very concerned, very alarmed when he found out we didn't know he wanted to come back and he made it clear he did, and everything was great from there."

Wherever A-Rod goes, there are questions. He is 8-for-59 (.136) in the postseason dating to 2004 and hitless in 18 consecutive playoff at-bats with runners in scoring position.

No matter how many home runs he hits, without a World Series ring he can't take a place alongside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, can't be mentioned with Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson.

"I think there's a sense of urgency," new manager Joe Girardi said. "There's no better year than the present, right?"

Playing for the Yankees has largely robbed A-Rod of his privacy. Whether he's sunbathing in Central Park or walking through a Toronto hotel lobby with a blond stripper, paparazzi are usually hiding nearby.

"When you're as good as Alex, you're going to be scrutinized more, and people are always watching," Girardi said. "When you're a great player, people never take their eyes off of you, so everything that you do is under a microscope, and he's doing it at the highest level in New York."

Across town, the Mets have their own icon to show off this year. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana is the Queens ace to play opposite A-Rod's Bronx bravura.

"I'm glad for a guy like Santana, gets to play in a city like New York," Rodriguez said. "He's the best pitcher. He deserves to be in the city, and in a forum. I thought it was a fantastic move by the New York Mets."

Rodriguez also praised teammate Andy Pettitte, who was forced to give a deposition and affidavit to Congress in which he admitted using HGH in 2002 and 2004. Pettitte also said Roger Clemens discussed HGH use nearly a decade ago — Clemens said Pettitte "misremembers."

"Andy is one of the greatest human beings I've ever met," Rodriguez said. "I have two daughters — well, I have one and one on the way. If I had a daughter, I would want 'em to marry Andy Pettitte. The age difference might be a little awkward, but in today's day and age anything is possible."

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