MILWAUKEE -- He didn't sound exactly like his late father on Wednesday, but Hal Steinbrenner certainly evoked memories of George Steinbrenner in discussing Alex Rodriguez.

"I think we all need Alex to be Alex," Steinbrenner, the Yankees' managing general partner, said upon arriving at the Major League Baseball owners' meetings. "The fans expect it. The fans want it. Alex expects it.

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"But he knows that. Nobody is harder on himself than him. He will show up in spring ready to play. He will be in shape. And he'll be doing his work. He knows he needs to do better than that."

A-Rod, who will turn 37 next July, suffered through the worst full season of his career, as knee and thumb injuries limited him to just 99 games, in which he hit 16 home runs, drove in 62 runs and batted .276.

Steinbrenner expressed relief that the Yankees retained CC Sabathia with an extension, but he said the team had more work to do on its pitching staff.

"We were concerned about pitching last year. It ended up working out pretty well," Steinbrenner said. "But I'm still a little concerned about our rotation. Lefties in the bullpen, possibly. Except for the first round of the playoffs, I think we've got some good, strong bats. I think pitching is where we're going to be looking."

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About that American League Division Series loss to Detroit? "We let the fans down in the playoffs. There's no doubt about it," Steinbrenner said. "They know that, and I know that. [General manager Brian] Cashman knows that. But our team last year is for the most part intact."