Cashman prepared to back A-Rod
GM wants slugger to know he can lean on club for support
TAMPA, Fla. -- As the Yankees enjoy their last minutes of relative calm before the Alex Rodriguez storm fully hits their Spring Training complex, general manager Brian Cashman said the organization is prepared to support its slugger through his "major crisis."
Next Tuesday, A-Rod is expected to discuss his admission of past steroid use to a large media gathering, as he settles in with the rest of the Yankees' position players. Cashman promised that Rodriguez will find a supportive atmosphere when he drops off his bags.
"We look forward to him joining the camp and addressing everybody to the best ability that he can, and to the degree he can," Cashman said Thursday at the club's Minor League complex.
"We'll get him in his batting-cage routines and his fielding routines, and off we go. I know it's not going to leave us; it's not like we can run from it. We just have to run toward it and deal with it."
The Yankees organization was caught off-guard by last weekend's Sports Illustrated report that stated Rodriguez was among 104 players who tested positive for steroids in Major League Baseball's 2003 survey testing program.
Cashman said that it was a "necessary and important first step" for Rodriguez to address the allegations -- in an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03 with the Texas Rangers -- but the questions will not end there.
"This is an issue we're going to have to deal with, it's an issue he's going to have to deal with," Cashman said. "There's no doubt about that. Ultimately, we'll be dealing with it together."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he has been swapping telephone calls and text messages with A-Rod since the SI story broke. Citing his prior experience with Andy Pettitte's PED situation last spring, Girardi said that Rodriguez's cloud will follow the club through its exhibition schedule.
"I don't think it's going to be one day and everyone disappears," Girardi said. "I think it will take some time. As each day goes by, it'll be less and less and less. Eventually, it will be back to just baseball for Alex."
While Girardi said that it takes more than one player to fuel a team, a high-caliber performance from Rodriguez would obviously help the Yankees' chances of returning to the playoffs. There will be eyes on Rodriguez throughout the spring and into the regular season to see how he handles the situation, and Girardi is confident that A-Rod will find a way to be productive.
"I've got to believe you've got to have pretty thick skin to be able to play at the level he's played," Girardi said. "The way that he's booed sometimes, the way that he's followed around. The way his life is hard to keep private. I'd imagine you'd have to have pretty thick skin to wake up every morning to live his life.
"There's not a lot of privacy in his life because of who he is and what he's accomplished. Fortunately for him, there's great things that come with being a great player. Then there's some not-so-great things. Part of it is your private life is hard to keep private."
When asked if the Yankees still would have traded for Rodriguez in 2004 had they known about his steroid use during the Texas years, Cashman said he could not turn back the clock. He also said that he cannot be sure that all of Rodriguez's Yankees seasons have been clean, as Rodriguez stated in the ESPN interview.
"I'm not here to represent that I'm confident about anything on anybody," Cashman said. "I think we've lived through a tough stretch that shattered that confidence level. If you asked me that question five years ago, I'd be giving a different answer. I've been educated quite a bit, unfortunately."
But Girardi put his trust in the drug program, believing that if Rodriguez had tested positive since 2004, it would have been made public. Regardless, admitting steroid use for three years of what was widely viewed as a Hall of Fame career may leave an indelible stain.
"I think only time is going to tell," Girardi said. "I think part of it will deal with how he handles it. Part of it will deal with how his numbers are as time goes on. We all know the feelings about some of the other people who have used steroids, how people feel about them right now.
"We don't know if those feelings are going to change over time, but right now, there's some healing to be done and some trust to be regained.
"I think there's a lot of repair work to be done. There's a lot of things that people have done that we're not proud of. But we're all negligent. I was part of the union, there were owners, and we missed the boat for a while. I don't think it ever should have got to this point."
Cashman said that he believes the other 103 names on that list should remain confidential, as they were originally intended to be -- MLB and the MLB Players Association had agreed to the survey testing program to determine if penalties would be enacted for the 2004 season.
"I personally believe that list should stay anonymous, as was designed," Cashman said.
Rodriguez has a public appearance scheduled for Friday in Coral Gables, Fla., where he is to be honored by the University of Miami. After that, Rodriguez will begin to prepare for arrival at Yankees camp, where a phalanx of microphones and cameras will await his next comments.
"It's just not an easy thing to go through," Cashman said. "That's why it's important for the rest of us to be here to add a shoulder to lean on. Some people have bigger shoulders than others, but ultimately it's important for him to know that there's a lot of people here he can turn to."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.