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Alex Rodriguez expects to return to form of 2012's first four months

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hands

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez hands out toys to a group of 75 children in Miami. Rodriguez used to attend the very same Boys and Girls Club when he was a child. (Dec. 8, 2012) Credit: Angel Valentin

MIAMI -- If it were a concession to age and injury, only Alex Rodriguez knows for sure.

The question was this:

What kind of player do you think you can be when you come back from surgery?

"I think the latest sample and most legitimate is how I played the first four months," Rodriguez said Saturday , making his first public comments since the announcement last week that he will be out four to six additional months after surgery on his left hip in January. "I thought my pace was at a pace that was solid and definitely a winning player."

But before his season went "south" -- to use A-Rod's word -- the 37-year-old's statistics were a far cry from the eye-popping numbers he put up most of his career.

When Rodriguez suffered a fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his left hand after being hit by a pitch from Felix Hernandez on July 24, he was hitting .276 with a .358 on-base percentage, .449 slugging percentage, 15 homers and 44 RBIs.

The injury cost him 36 games, and after he returned Sept. 3, he suffered a labrum tear in his left hip -- it still isn't clear exactly when it occurred -- that doctors believe caused a miserable stretch run to the season.

In the remainder of the regular season, he hit .261 with a .341 OBP and .369 slugging percentage, with three homers and 13 RBIs in 28 games.

Then he went 3-for-25 in an embarrassing postseason in which he was pinch hit for and benched.

"That was quite miserable, to be honest with you," A-Rod said after passing out toys to children at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade's Hank Kline Club, where he participated in its baseball program while growing up. "But like I said, we have a tangible issue. A lot of things make a lot of sense. Now I get to fix it and go back and play baseball."

The tangible issue, as general manager Brian Cashman disclosed at the winter meetings, was the tear in the left hip that wasn't discovered until an end-of-season evaluation in Vail, Colo., by Dr. Marc Philippon, who performed surgery on Rodriguez's right hip before the 2009 season.

Rodriguez first complained of pain -- strangely, in his right hip and not his left -- after ALDS Game 3 against the Orioles, a game in which Raul Ibañez pinch hit for him in the ninth inning and hit a tying home run before adding a winning homer in the 12th.

An MRI that night came back clean.

Before Joe Girardi pinch hit for Rodriguez in that game, the third baseman said he had been in a dialogue with trainer Steve Donohue and hitting coach Kevin Long all night.

"[I told them] I'm just not firing," A-Rod recalled. "There's something wrong, I just can't put my finger on it."

Neither could doctors, at least not until after the season. But Rodriguez said he doesn't second-guess anyone for not checking his left hip. After all, he had complained of pain in his right hip, an oddity he can't explain.

"I think everyone was trying to do the best they can," he said. "It was definitely an unfortunate situation, and if we knew, we could have avoided the bloodbath of the last two weeks."

He said the news he received in Vail was "a crushing blow," but he's not concerned about his career -- or the entire 2013 season, for that matter -- being in jeopardy.

"I think I'm definitely going to play," Rodriguez said. "We've been down this road before. We have a good plan, we have a good team in place and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

During the last month of the regular season and into the playoffs, Rodriguez repeatedly was asked about his health and maintained he was OK.

"When I struggle, it's on me," he said Saturday. "It's a team sport. I have to do my part. There's no excuses here."

Pressed, he conceded the obvious: The injury had at least some impact. "I knew there was something wrong," he said. "It was very frustrating. Obviously, I wasn't moving and exploding the way I'm used to."

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