NEW YORK — The pregame introductions weren’t the most immediate thing on the mind of Yankees manager Joe Girardi as he prepared for Opening Day.
But he acknowledged, when it came to Alex Rodriguez, he was a little curious.
Girardi hadn’t seen his injured and embattled third baseman since January, when Rodriguez had surgery to repair a torn labrum and an impingement in his hip.
The media hadn’t heard from Rodriguez all year, his profile obviously low as his name was linked to a Miami-based anti-aging clinic under investigation by Major League Baseball.
Girardi knew Rodriguez was at Yankee Stadium on Monday, but he wasn’t sure if Rodriguez would tip his cap before the first pitch.
“I’m anxious to see,” Girardi said. “I want to see how he’s kind of moving around in a sense, because I haven’t seen him since probably the end of January, when he was just starting to ride a bike. So what he chooses to do today is his prerogative and I’m fine with whatever he wants to do. But I’m anxious to see.”
Rodriguez passed on being introduced with the rest of the players, staying in the dugout to watch the season opener against the Red Sox.
“I don’t need to be introduced to feel like I’m a part of this team,” Rodriguez said. “I tell you what: When I get introduced, I want to get on the field and not look back.”
Rodriguez said his recovery is coming along well and that he has gone through workouts in New York. Although there’s a strong possibility he’ll sit out through the All-Star break, and growing concern that he could miss the entire season, Rodriguez said he intends to take the field this year.
“I think we’re at the very beginning, I would say Stage 1 of this recovery,” Rodriguez said. “The recovery’s going very well. I’ve been devoting 100 percent of my time and focus to getting back and playing and helping this team win a title. So we’ll definitely leave it to the doctors for that, but right now I think it’s too early to determine.”
A more pressing concern, however, is the latest allegations of PED use, which emerged in a January report by the Miami New Times. In a statement issued following the report, Rodriguez denied purchasing anything from the Biogenesis of America clinic. He said he has been in contact with the players’ union, but stopped short of elaborating on the situation.
Asked if he was concerned about a possible suspension, Rodriguez said, “I’m not. But I’m not going to further discuss this. At some point, I feel that everything will be good.”
Rodriguez deflected questions about how he felt when he heard the Yankees have looked into options for voiding his contract should he be punished by Major League Baseball.
“I don’t want to look into that,” he said. “I want to really focus on this great Opening Day and the great game of baseball and another great season that hopefully the Yankees are going to have.”
It’s been three years since Rodriguez was the 30-home run, 125-RBI epicenter of the Yankees lineup. Over the last two seasons, he’s hit 34 homers with 119 RBIs, but he feels like he can perform at a high level again.
“I think it can be very high,” Rodriguez said. “When I found out after the season about the big tear on my left hip, it was a bit of a relief to realize an understanding of how you ended last year. So I was able to go in and fix it, rehab. And I think 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, 37, said missing out on spring training was difficult, particularly with painfully low expectations surrounding an aging and injured Yankees team.
“Look, I think this year, we have a very special opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “This is my 10th year here in New York and the first time we’ve been projected to finish in last place, which I think is pretty crazy. So that’s exciting. It’s a year of opportunity. A year of opportunity for our team, a year of opportunity for me.
“I love when all these people say you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you’re old. I find it as a great challenge to prove all you guys wrong and everyone.”Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.