TAMPA, Fla. - Alex Rodriguez spent part of his 38th birthday Saturday at what has become a familiar place this summer: the Yankees' minor-league complex, where he resumed baseball activities, albeit at a cautious pace.
Rodriguez, whose comeback from offseason hip surgery was stalled last weekend by a controversial quadriceps injury, was back on the field after two days in which he wasn't seen working outside the complex. It was a carefully regimented small step forward -- some swings in the batting cage, light running in the outfield and basic defensive drills, nothing that seemingly would test his health.
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Having agreed with the Yankees on a rehab protocol on Thursday, Rodriguez is on course to play in a rehab or simulated game Thursday. He hasn't played in a major-league game this season and had nearly completed a 20-day rehab assignment, including games at multiple levels of the Yankees' farm system, before suffering his quad injury.
Rodriguez caused a stir this past week by getting a second opinion on an MRI of his left quadriceps. The Yankees said he had not notified them about that second opinion before getting it. That would be a violation of Major League Baseball's Basic Agreement and likely will result in a fine from the team.
Whatever the status of his quad might be, Rodriguez was careful during a brief morning workout that took place on a practice field adjacent to a midday Gulf Coast League minor-league game.
Rodriguez is in familiar territory now, having moved through the same rehab just weeks earlier. For now, he's fielding ground balls hit directly at him, so as not to require lateral movement, and he's not throwing to first base. Along similar lines, he'll progress in coming days from batting-cage swings to hitting soft toss, then to batting practice and to live swings, just as he did earlier this month.
His return to the practice field came a day after the Yankees and their veteran third baseman spent hours getting on the same page. Daniel Murphy, a Tampa orthopedic surgeon and Yankees team physician, evaluated Rodriguez in Tampa, and a conference call set in motion a plan for the next week. Rodriguez has maintained that he's healthy and ready to rejoin the Yankees, who managed only two hits Saturday in a 1-0 loss to the Rays at Yankee Stadium.
Rodriguez's recent spat with his team has drawn the spotlight away from a potential suspension coming from Major League Baseball for his alleged involvement with the Biogenesis clinic in Miami, which is at the center of the sport's ongoing controversy over performance-enhancing drugs. It remains to be seen whether Rodriguez will join the Yankees before MLB hands down its next round of suspensions.
A small group of fans braved midday heat Saturday to show their support for him with birthday wishes, but as was the case a day earlier, Rodriguez left the complex without speaking to fans or reporters in attendance.
He hasn't spoken in Tampa since a brief comment Wed- nesday, when he said, "I feel great. That's all I'm going to say.''