Alex Rodriguez traveled to Germany earlier this month to try an experimental therapy called Orthokine on both his right knee and his left shoulder, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday.
Rodriguez cleared everything with the Yankees -- who cleared everything with Major League Baseball -- before going forward with the idea. According to Cashman, the therapy was recommended to A-Rod by Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who credits the procedure for improving his arthritic right knee. Rodriguez's agent, Dan Lozano, did not return a call for comment.
"The more our doctor [Chris Ahmad] researched on it, the more impressed he was with the reputation" of Peter Wehling, the doctor who administered the therapy, Cashman said in a conference call. "Alex is our biggest investment. We allowed him to go the extra mile."
According to Wehling's website, a protective protein is produced from the patient's own blood by a special technique, and injected it into the affected joint.
A-Rod is no stranger to controversial medical procedures. In 2010, Anthony Galea, a Canadian doctor who pleaded guilty in July to bringing unapproved drugs into the United States, told The Associated Press that he treated Rodriguez. Galea maintains that he never gave illegal performance-enhancing drugs to any of the professional athletes he treated, a list that also includes former Mets Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes. Rodriguez never commented publicly about involvement with Galea.
In February 2009, Rodriguez admitted to using illegal performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2002.
Those two episodes surprised the Yankees, who had to deal with the aftermath. In this instance, however, the Yankees expressed satisfaction that A-Rod did the right thing. Rodriguez first contacted the Yankees with the idea "some time in early November," Cashman said, and the Yankees took weeks to fully vet it. A-Rod was in Dusseldorf, Germany, from Dec. 5 through Dec. 9 for the therapy. Professional golfers Fred Couples and Vijay Singh have also undergone Orthokine therapy.
Gary Wadler, chairman of the Prohibited List Committee at the World Anti-Doping Agency and a clinical associate professor of medicine at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, said he didn't have specific knowledge of Orthokine but added, "I've heard mixed reports of PRP. Gary Wadler uses the three-to-five-year rule. It has to be around three to five years before I know it really has a role to play.
"There are two issues: Is it prohibited? No. Does it do what it purports to do? The jury remains out on that."
Said Cashman: "You're always having an emerging market of things that are allegedly there to help better people . . . This is obviously something that has emerged. We'll play within the margins. If there's some upside, then that's great."
Rodriguez played in 99 games and hit 16 homers in 428 plate appearances last season. He missed about a month-and-a-half after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and injured his left thumb shortly after his return in August. His left shoulder was not a known problem.
A-Rod worked out before, during and after his therapy, Cashman said, and he's expected to report to spring training at full strength.
Notes & quotes: The Yankees have signed Japanese left-hander Hideki Okajima to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training, Cashman confirmed. Okajima, 36, starred for the Red Sox from 2007 through 2009, then declined in 2010 and spent most of 2011 pitching for Boston's Triple-A affiliate Pawtucket. Cashman said that the team regarded Okajima as a potential lefthanded specialist behind Boone Logan.
Cashman indicated that the Yankees' interest in free-agent third baseman Eric Chavez, who performed capably for the team in 2011, would wane if the team signed Hiroyuki Nakajima, the infielder whose exclusive negotiating rights the Yankees won in December. The Nakajima matter must be resolved by Jan. 6; if he doesn't sign with the Yankees, he'll return to the Seibu Lions.