Joe Girardi expects Alex Rodriguez to be Yankees' starting third baseman
Rodriguez, 39, was suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating the league's drug policy and interfering with the Biogenesis investigation. It was the longest drug-related suspension in MLB history and cost Rodriguez his entire $25 million salary.
Girardi cautioned that while he expects Rodriguez to start, "We've got to see where he's physically at."
After missing much of the 2013 season following hip surgery, Rodriguez has played in just 44 games since the end of the 2012 season.
Kelly Johnson began 2014 as the Yankees third baseman, until he was traded and the team acquired Chase Headley for the position. Headley batted .262 with six home runs and 17 RBI in 58 games for New York.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman reached out to Rodriguez over the weekend to discuss his return. Rodriguez declined Cashman's offer to play winter ball to help get his timing back. Cashman said he is confident Rodriguez will come back ready to contribute. "One thing about Alex, he has always been a hard worker," Cashman said. "It is nothing you ever have to worry about with Alex."
Rodriguez is owed more than $60 million over the next three seasons. The three-time AL MVP will enter the season with 654 career home runs, 309 of which came during 10 seasons with the Yankees.
The Yankees finished 84-78 and missed the playoffs in Derek Jeter's final season. Girardi reportedly criticized the Yankees prior to their home finale for some players being overweight and not being hungry enough to win.
- Paul Palladino