Hal Steinbrenner praised Alex Rodriguez for his positive contributions, both on and off the field, in talking about the state of the Yankees during a break Wednesday in Major League Baseball's quarterly owners meeting in Manhattan.

As for Rodriguez claiming he's a changed man, and nothing like the old A-Rod, the Yankees' managing general partner smiled.

"I'm afraid I have a psychology major, but I do not have a PhD in psychology and I don't do it for a living," said Steinbrenner, who studied at Williams College like his father. "So I haven't even contemplated that, to be honest with you.

"All I know is he's been great. Been great in the clubhouse, he's been good with the young kids and he's performed."

Entering Wednesday, Rodriguez was second on the team with 10 home runs, including No. 660, which was supposed to trigger a $6-million payment by the club for tying Willie Mays. Brian Cashman said earlier this month the Yankees are not contractually bound to pay Rodriguez because they did not see his home run pursuit as marketable after the Biogenesis suspension -- a right the GM said was spelled out in the deal.

Steinbrenner backed Cashman's statements, but did not go any further. The Players Association has stated it will help Rodriguez in any fight over the club's decision.

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"I don't want to get into it too much," Steinbrenner said. "I will say that, as with every other contract, if there's any contractual obligation on our end, we're going to meet them. It's no different from any other contract."

Steinbrenner also was asked if he believed that Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July, will be able to finish the contract, which pays him $61 million through 2017.

"Who knows?" Steinbrenner said. "My back and neck hurt every day when I wake up now, whether I do anything the day before or not. Every year is going to get tougher, but we have to manage him. He's going to be in the DH spot more than anything, of course. Like a couple of other players, we're just managing him."

As A-Rod's deal winds down, Steinbrenner sounds eager to see the next generation of Yankees, and intends to hold on to the top prospects when the team considers upgrades at the trade deadline. He seems more willing to take on the salary dumps as the Yankees did a year ago with Stephen Drew, Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy.

"Not afraid to spend money -- I never am," Steinbrenner said. "So when July rolls around, we're going to see where we're really deficient and do what we can."

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But not at the expense of the farm system, apparently, as Steinbrenner looks to get closer to the $189-million luxury-tax cap in the future.

"It's definitely something we're going to strive for," Steinbrenner said. "Now that we've got these young players starting to get to the Double-A, Triple-A levels. Hopefully it's the goal in years to come, when the long-term contracts are over. Some of these young kids -- the way they do for every other team it seems -- step in and get the job done."

Steinbrenner didn't have many complaints, with the Yankees owning a share of first place before last night's game in Washington. But one area he did single out was the team's poor middle-infield production, where Drew and Didi Gregorius have contributed practically zero. Steinbrenner noted the improved glovework, however, the season after Derek Jeter's retirement.

"Things have to get better without a doubt," Steinbrenner said. "But defensively we went from probably one of the worst in the American League to one of the better ones. Stephen Drew is what he is. Didi is everything we thought he'd be -- an incredibly hard working, positive guy, great teammate, good defensively. We're starting to see that now. But the bat has to come around, and I think it will."