Alex Rodriguez told the Yankees on Wednesday that he is "unsure" when he will be ready to play -- if at all -- this season, according to a source familiar with A-Rod's three-way conference call with general manager Brian Cashman and team president Randy Levine.
It was the first time Rodriguez had spoken to Cashman in more than a month. The call, which took place at 5:30 p.m., came hours after managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner met with Rodriguez that morning in Tampa to discuss the tweet by A-Rod that had angered Cashman.
There was no immediate comment from a spokesman for Rodriguez.
The Yankees have refused to give a timeline on Rodriguez's possible return to the majors this season or even specify a date for him to begin a rehab assignment. That's why Cashman got so upset when Rodriguez tweeted that he had been given the "green light" by Dr. Bryan Kelly, who performed surgery on Rodriguez's injured hip, to begin playing in games.
The New York Post was the first to report that Rodriguez had backed off his tweet about being ready to play.
A-Rod's level of baseball fitness has been a matter of much debate during the past few days. One Tampa observer who watched him take batting practice last week at the Yankees' minor-league complex described him as a "monster," launching 400-foot fly balls deep into the parking lot beyond the centerfield wall. Rodriguez continued to take simulated at-bats Thursday.
Manager Joe Girardi, who usually is reluctant to provide much insight into rehabbing players, said he has been in regular contact with Rodriguez.
"Everything that I understand, he's been making progress," Girardi said before Thursday's 2-0 loss to the Rangers. "He's moved better, day after day. Sounds like things are pretty good."
Derek Jeter also gave Rodriguez positive reviews after working out with him Thursday at the Tampa complex. When asked if Rodriguez can be a productive player again, Jeter replied, "Of course."
"He looked good," Jeter told The Associated Press. "Alex works extremely hard. He's working hard now to get back."
When that will be -- if ever -- has huge financial implications for both parties.
As Cashman alluded to Wednesday, the team is insured for the duration of Rodriguez's contract, which runs through 2017 and has roughly $103 million left on the deal.
But there is a four-month deductible, meaning the Yankees can't start collecting on this season until after Aug. 1. As it looks now, that won't be an issue if Rodriguez doesn't start his rehab assignment before next week. Once he does get under way, he is likely to need a full month in the minors, which would take him past that date.
The Yankees have denied that any of their decisions involving Rodriguez have been influenced by a potential insurance payout. If Rodriguez is physically unable to continue his career after two hip surgeries, the Yankees could recoup 80 percent of his contract.
The team still insists that its goal is to have Rodriguez back in uniform sooner rather than later.
"Everybody understands the appropriate procedures and protocols to get Alex healthy as quickly as possible," Levine said. "That's all of our goals and what we're all striving to accomplish."
Thursday's loss was another example of why the Yankees need A-Rod's bat. Rangers lefthander Derek Holland needed only 92 pitches to throw a two-hit shutout, the seventh suffered by the Yankees this season. The Yankees' .656 OPS against lefthanded pitchers ranks 27th in the majors. Only the White Sox, Marlins and Nationals are worse.
Wednesday's revelation that first baseman Mark Teixeira will be lost to season-ending wrist surgery made the Yankees' need for a righthanded power hitter even more desperate. But it's going to be difficult to predict when Rodriguez is coming back.
Aside from when he will be able to play, the other potential issue looming for Rodriguez is Major League Baseball's ongoing investigation into Biogenesis. His name allegedly has been linked to receiving performance-enhancing drugs.
"Why would he be a distraction?" Jeter said. "You guys may be a distraction to him, if you ask him questions. I've never seen how someone could be a distraction to a team because we don't have to deal with it."
With Erik Boland