Alex Rodriguez still cuts a fearsome presence in the Yankees' clubhouse. Reporters and videographers still jockey for position in front of his locker when he saunters in during the media availability period. He's still the biggest of marquee players here, a guy who at any given moment can produce a big headline.
Rodriguez, 37, has struggled at the plate this season, especially since coming back from a broken left hand Sept. 3. He hit .261 and had only three homers and six extra-base hits in 111 at-bats.
But the playoffs are a whole new season, and it seems as though neither A-Rod nor Joe Girardi is ready to concede that he can't have an explosive postseason -- the kind that can make all the difference for a team that is going to need to score a lot of runs to fulfill its dream of winning another championship.
"I still think he can be the guy," Girardi said Friday before a workout at Yankee Stadium. "That's the belief I have in him. I think he still has that belief . . . I feel good whenever he comes up to the plate."
Indeed, it's always been hard to predict what A-Rod is going to do in the postseason.
He performed very well for the Mariners in 1997 and 2000, going 18-for-51, and when he hit a tremendous home run onto Lansdowne Street off future teammate Derek Lowe in the third inning of Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against Boston, Rodriguez was 15-for-35 in that postseason. But in the rest of that series plus 2005-07, he went 8-for-59 with one RBI and became known as Mr. Anti-Clutch.
Then he went 9-for-50 in 2010-11.
While Rodriguez is not so confident (or crazy) as to predict a repeat of that 2009 performance, he said he again can be the player that pitchers fear.
"I think that I can get that hot, sure," he said. "But you get that hot by not doing too much and not trying to be the guy who carries the team."
Rodriguez may be confident, but his numbers have not been inspiring lately.
In his last 10 games of the regular season, he hit only .205 with one double and one RBI. But he was 6-for-15 in the last four games, was robbed of an extra-base hit to deep left-center by Jacoby Ellsbury and says his left hand feels good.
Rodriguez missed 36 games after he was hit in the hand by Felix Hernandez on July 24. Because of that, he said if he were asked to grade his performance this season, he would give himself a "big incomplete."
"It was a freaky injury," he said, "but right now, it doesn't matter. We could be talking 50 home runs or five home runs. It's all water under the bridge. I have an opportunity right now to help the team win and be a big part of it."