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Alex Rodriguez acknowledges comeback will be tough

Joe Girardi on Alex Rodriguez: 'I knew this day was coming'

Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke to members of the media in Tampa, Florida on Feb. 26, 2015 about how much playing time Alex Rodriguez will get during the 2015 season. (Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.)

TAMPA, Fla. - Alex Rodriguez has made it clear since his arrival that he will not be baring his soul about what he's called his past "mistakes.'' But he's been relatively open about what teammates and Yankees fans care about: Can he play or not?

Day 1 of Camp A-Rod officially opened Thursday with the club's first full-squad workout, and Rodriguez was blunt about the hill he's trying to climb at 39 with, among other things, questionable hips.

"Look, this is a hard thing I'm trying to do,'' said Rodriguez, a full participant in the workout, playing third base and homering twice in batting practice.

"You can all look pretty tough and pretty good with BP,'' he added. "It doesn't mean anything. Let's see what happens when somebody's throwing 95.''

Rodriguez said "yes'' when asked if he is confident that he still can hit a 95-mph fastball, but it's clear he has plenty of doubts. And appropriately so.

Even before last year's 162-game suspension for PED use and his involvement with Biogenesis, his body was in decline. Various ailments landed him on the disabled list at least once each season from 2008-13.

After the workout, Rodriguez smiled while cutting off a question that started with a reporter restating Mark Teixeira's declared goal of a 30-homer, 100-RBI season.

"You scared me,'' Rodriguez said. "I thought he said that for me. I'm like, 'Whoa.' ''

When told that Teixeira also said those numbers are possible for a healthy A-Rod, he laughed uneasily. "I'm glad he's confident,'' he said. "I like those numbers for him.''

Brian Cashman said Rodriguez is guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster out of camp -- "He's got a three-year contract,'' the general manager said -- but A-Rod's approach is different.

"I look at it like I need to fight for a spot on the roster,'' he said. "I'm coming in like I'm 18 years old and having to make Lou's [Piniella's] team ['94 Mariners].''

Joe Girardi said it will be impossible to evaluate him as a player until he gets in games. Cashman said they probably won't be able to make any real determinations until the final two weeks of spring training. That leaves everything in a holding pattern, but the repetitive questions about Rodriguez are starting to get to some.

Asked if he is "happy'' that Rodriguez is back with the team, Girardi said: "I don't understand what kind of question that is, to be honest. He's a player of ours; of course I want him back.''

Cashman, after nearly 10 minutes of Rodriguez questions, finally had had enough.

"I just don't want to talk about the same stuff that I feel I covered already,'' he said. "I've been down in spring training for a few days, I've dealt with this prior to coming down here, feel like I've been there, done that, so I feel like we're going back to stuff that's already been asked, which I feel is a waste of time, and I don't feel like wasting my time.''

As for the most overblown angle -- worries about the "distraction'' of A-Rod -- players are saying they're behind anyone who can help them win. "If he does well, it only helps the team,'' Jacoby Ellsbury said.

Few players have been as outspoken about PED use in baseball as Teixeira, but he said having A-Rod back in the clubhouse is not an issue for him. "Alex is not a bad person,'' he said. "I have known Alex for a long time, and Alex has made bad decisions. He has owned up to them and I think hopefully now we can get past it.''

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