TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Hank Steinbrenner is looking ahead and not back when it comes to Alex Rodriguez.
Suspended last season for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez reported to the Yankees' spring training camp Wednesday at George Steinbrenner Field. A-Rod is trying to return as his 40th birthday approaches in July.
''Hopefully this spring he can contribute, that's the bottom line,'' Steinbrenner, the Yankees' co-chairman, said Wednesday. ''He can hit. He's a natural. Hopefully he can still do it. We're just going take it as it goes. As far as whether he can contribute or not, we'll have to see. Hopefully he will. Hopefully he'll help the lineup.''
Steinbrenner was heavily involved in the team's decision to sign Rodriguez to a record $275 million, 10-year contract in December 2007 after the three-time MVP terminated his $252 million, 10-year deal with three seasons remaining.
Rodriguez has not played a full season since then because of injuries, which led to operations on both hips, and the suspension. Rodriguez has apologized to the Yankees and to fans, but didn't go into specifics on his actions that led to the ban. Six years ago, he admitted using performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas.
Rodriguez completed his physical Wednesday, which he said he passed, and met with manager Joe Girardi before making the mile trip for his third early workout at the Yankees' minor league complex. He hit five homers in 102 batting practice swings.
General manager Brian Cashman said he was surprised when Rodriguez arrived Monday.
Rodriguez declined to say whether he apologized to Girardi, saying ''I'm going to keep our conversions private.''
''It was a good meeting, positive,'' Rodriguez said. ''I think Joe's position has always been one to back me up. I'd go through a wall for Joe.''
Girardi also wouldn't say whether an apology was made.
''We had a good conversation, and he's ready to go to work,'' Girardi said. ''We talked a little bit about what our goals are in spring training. I told him I'd get him as many at-bats as I could that he could physically handle. He said I'm here to try to help this team win. I want to play, I want to help this team win.''
Girardi and Cashman say Chase Headley will be their starting third baseman and Rodriguez will compete for at-bats at designated hitter. Rodriguez could see some time at first base.
''I told him whatever he needs, I'm all in,'' Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said the biggest thing for him in Thursday's first full-squad workout is ''just being back in pinstripes.''
''It's been a long time,'' he said.
The Yankees are hoping for a turnaround season after missing the playoffs the past two years.
''We could have a really good team and do well this year,'' Steinbrenner said. ''It's going to be the same as the last two years, hopefully we won't have the injuries we had. We just have to hope for the best this year.''
Tanaka made two late September starts after missing 2 1/2 months last season with a partially torn elbow ligament. Pineda went 5-5 with an 1.89 ERA in 13 starts after returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for two years.
''If Tanaka and Pineda can stay healthy, we're going to be very tough in that area with the other guys as well,'' Steinbrenner said. ''We've got two legitimate top-notch starting pitchers. Nobody would deny that. If they can stay healthy, we can be very tough this year.''