BOSTON -- Joe Girardi denied allegations Saturday that he knew Alex Rodriguez had a severely injured hip and played him anyway during the Yankees' postseason run last year, as the third baseman's lawyer says.
"No, I didn't,'' Girardi said after the Yankees' 6-1 loss to the Red Sox. "We didn't know. From everything I knew, he felt good and then the one day that I pinch hit [for him], he said his hip wasn't firing. That was the first inkling for me that maybe there was something wrong. But it was his right hip.''
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According to Girardi, A-Rod didn't complain of the issue until Game 3 of the Division Series, when he sent up Raul Ibanez to pinch hit for him. He was benched for three of the next five games and finished 3-for-25 with 12 strikeouts. The Yankees beat the Orioles in the ALDS and were swept by the Tigers in the ALCS.
Three months later, Rodriguez had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. Joseph Tacopina, the attorney hired two weeks ago by Rodriguez, told The New York Times that the Yankees "rolled him out there like an invalid and made him look like he was finished as a ballplayer.'' Tacopina also said the Yankees hid the MRI results that showed the torn labrum, but Girardi said A-Rod never told him he shouldn't be out there.
"You're in the situation during the playoffs that you need guys to play,'' Girardi said. "But I don't ever want to ruin anyone's career. That would break my heart. Maybe I take some heat with the way I handle a bullpen, but I am not ruining anyone's career. That's not who I am. I never felt anyone ever put me in jeopardy and I don't want to do that.''
Rodriguez hesitated to back up Tacopina's statements, saying he needed to read them first. But he didn't pin any blame on Girardi for what happened.
"I love Joe,'' Rodriguez said. "Joe and I have an amazing relationship. I have the utmost respect for Joe and that's unwavered.''
After discussing Saturday's loss, Girardi was forced to answer a handful of legal questions regarding the attorney's accusations and soon realized their severity. "We'll let the lawyers handle all of this,'' Girardi said.
Until then, the Yankees are forced to deal with a $275-million distraction that seems to grow larger by the day. Girardi didn't have any ready comparisons when asked -- he suggested Sammy Sosa's final days with the Cubs -- and didn't really know how he will handle this going forward.
"I think you have to see if it impacts all the players around him or if it's impacting him where he's not able to perform at the level that you expect him to,'' Girardi said. "It becomes a lot for him to probably digest every day, but so far I haven't seen it.
"It happens. Because as much as it's a game, it's also a living for players and owners and everyone who works at the ballpark. People are going to fight for their living.''With Erik Boland