TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez didn't so much as field a ground ball or swing at a pitch, but in making his first appearance at the Yankees' minor-league complex since offseason surgery on his left hip, the third baseman took a small step Monday toward his eventual return to the Yankees' lineup.
"I'm so excited to be back out there,'' Rodriguez said. "We jogged a little bit, threw a little bit, took about 20 to 30 hacks off the tee. It feels good to be back out there again in uniform."
A-Rod was upbeat about his progress but careful to "stay away from timetables." He said his doctors and team doctors have carefully planned a 30-day rehab plan and that his status will be reassessed at its completion.
Asked if he definitely will play in 2013, he said, "I really hope so. That's as specific as I'll get.
"I'm just focusing one day at a time. One of 30 today, so tomorrow is 2 of 30. Just taking small bites," said Rodriguez, who signed autographs for a line of about 40 fans who had waited as long as six hours outside the training complex.
Rodriguez, who had his surgery Jan. 16 and is on the 60-day disabled list, was candid in talking about his motivation to get back on the field after a disappointing finish to 2012. The Yankees scored two runs in their final three games during the Tigers' four-game ALCS sweep. A-Rod was 3-for-25 (.120) with zero RBIs and 12 strikeouts in the postseason, sitting out two of the nine games and giving way to a pinch hitter in three others.
"I'm working 24/7 to get back on the field . . . The way the season ended last year was very embarrassing, very tough on me [and] obviously our team," he said. "It was a devastating sweep against Detroit. I have a lot of unfinished business and I'm looking forward to getting back and helping my team win."
Rodriguez is hardly alone in his rehab in Tampa, joining injured teammates Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis. Teixeira said it is uplifting to see Rodriguez and the positive attitude he has toward his recovery.
"We'd rather be with the team in Colorado, but we're making the most of it," said Teixeira, recovering from a wrist injury suffered March 5. "It's great seeing him. He's a little bit further behind than we are, obviously, but he's just happy to be back doing some baseball activities. He's got a big smile on his face right now, which is good."
Rodriguez said he's encouraged by how well the Yankees (18-12) are playing despite the multitude of injuries in the first month of the season.
"We always talk about it, [that] injuries are part of the game, but this is crazy," Rodriguez said. "I've never seen anything like it. It's remarkable.
"I've got to tell you, the way those guys are playing up there, the job the front office has done, putting these guys together last minute, hats off to everyone. It's inspiring and hopefully sets the stage for when some of us get back to really add on to some of the great things they've been doing."
Rodriguez said an act as simple as swinging a bat made him feel "like being 8 years old again," and he understands the importance of returning healthy to the Yankees as soon as he can.
Rodriguez wasn't himself at the end of last season, and Dr. Bryan Kelly -- who performed his surgery in January -- said the hip problem was a factor in his performance, but A-Rod said he doesn't want to make excuses.
"You offer no excuses. People don't want to hear that. In New York, you have to come out and perform, bottom line," he said. "I was good enough to be out there. I should have done better. There's no excuses.
"With that said, I really look forward to getting back on the field close to 100 percent, being who I am or closer to who I am."