TAMPA, Fla. - The lawsuit is in the past, and so is any lingering bad blood between Alex Rodriguez and the players association.
"Alex has been a member, continues to be a member of our organization,'' MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said Sunday after addressing Yankees players, a group that included Rodriguez. "We'll continue to defend and protect his rights the way we would any player. He's a part of the fraternity, indifferent to any of the challenges that may have taken place over the last few years.''
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When Clark came to Yankees camp in late February 2014, Rodriguez wasn't in the clubhouse because he was serving a season-long suspension for PED use and his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
After arbitrator Fredric Horowitz trimmed MLB's original suspension of 211 games to a full season in January 2014, Rodriguez, at the time already suing Yankees doctors, added suits against MLB and the MLBPA.
A little more than a month later, a few weeks after those suits were dropped, an uneasiness still existed, with Clark calling the suit against the MLBPA "a concern.''
More than a year later, that is not the case.
"We spoke quite a bit,'' said Clark, a teammate of Rodriguez's with the Yankees in 2004. "Again, our relationship goes back 20-some years, so we have the ability to pick up the phone and talk through things despite the window of time there were some challenges. We're good.''
Clark added: "We've spoken quite a bit of late, particularly as he got back into camp and was settling back in, and I'm assuming we'll continue to as things move forward.''
The MLBPA visits the 30 clubs during spring training every year, and Clark, who has visited 24 teams so far, said the topic of Rodriguez has come up, though not in a negative sense.
"A lot of guys have moved forward,'' Clark said.
Does Rodriguez have anything to prove to show he's a member of the union in good standing?
"I don't know that he has to prove anything,'' Clark said. "As I mentioned, guys will be watching, guys will be watching to see how he carries himself and guys will be watching to see what impact he wants to have moving forward.
"Guys may want to see what position he has among the fraternity, as somebody who's played the game for 20 years. There are very few guys that have done that. To the extent that he wants to breathe into the guys that are coming next or if he wants to share his experiences or offer his thoughts, he'll have an opportunity to do so. So I think a lot of guys are really watching from here going forward, what is he going to do.''
If Rodriguez makes it through spring training and into the regular season, a conflict between the union and the Yankees could be on the horizon. Rodriguez is six homers from tying Willie Mays (660) for fourth and triggering a $6-million bonus. The Yankees have told Rodriguez they plan to fight him on that bonus and others in his contract related to his climb up the all-time leader board in home runs, and Rodriguez almost certainly would file a grievance if they did so.
Sources have said the union would take up that fight. Clark didn't speak directly about that topic Sunday, but he indicated that would be the case.
"Our responsibility here is very simple,'' Clark said. "Our responsibility always has and will continue to be to make sure we defend and protect the rights of all players. If we believe there's a violation that occurs, then we'll address it accordingly. That's for anybody.''