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Alex Rodriguez to play in rehab game Tuesday

Alex Rodriguez warms up during batting practice before

Alex Rodriguez warms up during batting practice before Game 4 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on Oct. 18, 2012. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. - Alex Rodriguez's long path back to the Yankees took a major step forward Monday when the team announced he will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday in South Carolina with the Charleston RiverDogs of the Class A South Atlantic League.

"Awesome. I'm excited," Rodriguez said Monday afternoon as he left the Yankees' minor-league complex with bats and gear in tow. "I had another good day today . . . It's all been very positive. We're all looking in the same direction, to get back to New York as soon as possible. Tomorrow is the first good step."

If A-Rod doesn't have any setbacks -- which is not guaranteed, considering he had both hips operated on during the last four years -- he could be ready during the Yankees' four-game series against the Rangers in Arlington that starts July 22.

The news of Rodriguez's impending three-inning outing in Charleston had the Yankees excited.

"Hopefully, everything goes well for him," Robinson Cano said before Monday night's game in Minneapolis. "We all know what kind of player he is and what he's done in the past."

Joe Girardi wouldn't say the team is "desperate" to have A-Rod back, but he knows what even a diminished version of the slugger could mean to a lineup that has lacked punch for most of the season. "We've had trouble scoring runs," Girardi said. "That's no secret. So it'll be nice to get some big bats back."

Just how productive Rodriguez can be is in question. A-Rod, who turns 38 July 27, has spent time on the disabled list in each of the last six seasons. In 122 games last year, he hit .272 with 18 homers and 57 RBIs.

He endured a miserable postseason as he went 3-for-25, incapable of catching up to fastballs, even those in the mid-to-high 80s. After the season came the disclosure that Rodriguez had been playing with a bad hip.

When asked about A-Rod's possible impact, Cano said: "It's hard to tell because we know he was hurt, we [found] out after the season. But we know if he's healthy, he can do a lot of damage in this game."

Despite persistent morning rain, Rodriguez worked out with Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson at Steinbrenner Field for about an hour. Then he spent about three hours inside the minor-league complex, during which he discussed his rehab plans with team officials on a conference call.

It's unknown how long Rodriguez will play with Charleston, though he said the plan is largely weather-related.

"We're going to run away from the weather as much as possible,'' he said, "try to find some good sunshine." He said he might move from one minor-league affiliate to another to avoid rain, which plagued Tampa much of the past week.

"I'm actually very excited. It'll be the first game I play in in maybe over eight months," Rodriguez said. "It's been a long time. It's going to be great to suit up again. It gets me one step closer to helping my team win in New York."

Granderson took a step forward in his recovery from a broken left pinkie. He began catching balls in long toss after only throwing in previous workouts. His next step is bat work, but he said he did not know how soon that will happen.

Jeter left the complex without commenting, but Granderson said Jeter's progress from a broken ankle continued as he started running the bases for the first time Monday morning.

With Erik Boland

in Minneapolis

New York Sports