Alex Rodriguez has received glowing reviews during his rehab work in Tampa. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
A week after the Yankees lost third baseman Kevin Youkilis to back surgery, the team's answer could be a former American League Most Valuable Player.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports Alex Rodriguez is turning heads during his rehabilitation from hip surgeries and could return to the Yankees lineup before shortstop Derek Jeter.
Alex Rodriguez's recent progress is said by people around the Yankees to have been dramatic, with one person calling it "fantastic" and another even speculating A-Rod could possibly begin to play rehab games just after the All-Star break.
There have been dire predictions about A-Rod's future based on the circumstances of a player in his late 30s undergoing two major hip surgeries and all the rest of his history. But one Yankees person, hearing of his recent progress, marveled Wednesday about Rodriguez.
"He may beat everyone back," the Yankees person said, meaning all the many other injured Yankees.
The Yankees have shied away from offering timetables on the return of Rodriguez and Jeter, but both reportedly have eyed a comeback shortly after the All-Star break.
Rodriguez, 38, appears to be running closer to his top speed than Jeter and his hitting has earned positive reviews.
One Yankees person said A-Rod is "clearly well ahead of Derek," though the ups and downs of rehab will keep Cashman from declaring that A-Rod will surely be the first of the two all-time greats to return. Jeter was once thought likely to be ready for opening day, then the timetable was moved back until early June before the more murky "sometime" after the All-Star break.
The positive report on Rodriguez could be tainted by future actions involving Major League Baseball's investigation into players connected to illegal performance enhancing drugs provided by the former Biogenesis clinic -- an investigation Rodriguez's attorney called "despicable" Thursday.
Rodriguez's links to the Biogenesis scandal reportedly had the Yankees hoping their third baseman would retire
before returning from rehab, letting the team off the hook for the more than $100 million remaining on his contract.