02/17/09 12:24 AM EST
Watch live when A-Rod faces media
Players, coaches to offer support as he answers steroid questions
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
And when Rodriguez looks around a converted picnic tent this afternoon, holding his first formal news conference since admitting to using PEDs, the Yankees superstar will be able to find friendly faces in the crowd.
Numerous members of the Yankees organization have added their name to an attendance roster as a show of public support for Rodriguez, who will report to camp tackling the fallout from revelations about his PED use during his three seasons with the Texas Rangers.
Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera were among the first to publicly state intention to attend, having also been present at a similar event for Andy Pettitte one year ago. Pettitte will be on hand, watching with new teammates CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira.
"The guys have all done it on their own," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "What's great about it is they're all showing their support for Alex. I think this is the type of thing that brings a club closer together."
Girardi, general manager Brian Cashman and members of the Yankees' coaching staff will also be present for the 1:30 p.m. ET conference at George M. Steinbrenner Field, as Rodriguez holds his first formal exchange with reporters following a bombshell Feb. 7 Sports Illustrated Web site report.
"He's not on an island, you know?" Teixeira said. "A lot of people think that this is going to tear the team apart. I think it's going to bring the team together. It's a family in here, and we're just going to be there for our friend."
Rodriguez has spoken since being identified as one of the 104 players who tested positive for banned substances in 2003, agreeing to a televised interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons on Feb. 9 in which he admitted using banned substances.
A-Rod also appeared at a University of Miami event on Friday, but he did not speak to reporters, dashing off after referring to the news media as his "dysfunctional family."
While the Gammons interview touched on a number of subjects, there are many questions left unanswered, and Rodriguez will have his opportunity today. Yankees director of media relations Jason Zillo estimated that Rodriguez's conference would draw approximately 150 to 200 members of the working press to the club's Spring Training facility.
There is a blueprint of sorts for the Yankees to follow. Last year, with Pettitte about to discuss his past use of human growth hormone, he did not know that his teammates planned to attend his news conference until minutes before.
Making the right turn out of the Yankees' clubhouse and walking down a concrete runway, Pettitte noticed Jeter, Posada and Rivera following behind him. The gesture was important.
"I just appreciated it, knowing those guys -- Mariano and Jorgie since '91, and Derek since '92," Pettitte said. "I'd been with these guys the whole way up. They're like brothers to me."
Teixeira was a rookie in 2003, Rodriguez's final season with the Rangers, but Sabathia and Burnett do not have the same kind of history with Rodriguez -- in fact, Sabathia said last week that he would need to introduce himself and get acquainted.
But they are Yankees in name and uniform, and so it seems the appropriate thing to do, supporting a player who is integral to the club's chances of achieving success in 2009 and beyond. Girardi said that he does not believe the actions are just "window-dressing."
"I think guys are just showing their support for Alex, how important he is for us, how important his life is to us," Girardi said. "When you spend this many days together, it's more than baseball.
"There's things that happen that you have to get through and get to the other side. Guys are just rallying behind Alex on their own; this is what they're choosing to do. I think it's a wonderful thing."
Pettitte's thorough question-and-answer session last Feb. 18 lasted more than 55 minutes. Having said that he was having trouble sleeping at night, the news conference actually became cathartic in a sense. Perhaps, Pettitte said, it will be so for Rodriguez as well.
"How many press conferences can he have about it?" Pettitte said. "He'll have a press conference tomorrow, and hopefully, he doesn't have to have another press conference. It'll definitely -- hopefully -- be the end of it. For me, it's like, what else are you going to do?"
Girardi said that he has spoken with Rodriguez on the telephone and exchanged text messages, but he would look in his eyes before today's news conference. Girardi said that it will be "a big step" in helping Rodriguez move forward, but that he would not be able to put it all behind him in just one Q&A session. That was a concern Pettitte shared last spring.
"If they thought I was going to be a distraction to this team, I really didn't want to play," Pettitte said. "That was my biggest concern -- being a distraction, my teammates having to answer questions for me. That was a big issue for me."
|"I think it's going to linger. I don't think we're going to have a press conference tomorrow and it's just going to disappear. I think it'll linger for a few days, maybe a week. Who knows? Only time will tell."|
|-- Manager Joe Girardi, on Alex Rodriguez's situation|
But by making himself available, Pettitte found that the questions eventually faded, and so did the attention. Even when the Yankees visited Boston's Fenway Park, Pettitte was surprised that the hostile Red Sox fans did not seem to consider his use a major topic of interest.
"I held the press conference, and there were no other questions," Pettitte said. "I don't know what Alex plans to do. I don't know his situation, what's going on in his life. For me, it really didn't matter to me. It didn't matter what the lawyers said or whatever. I was going to get it all out."
Rodriguez said in the Gammons interview that "the truth will always set you free," but he declined to go into explicit detail about his past use of performance-enhancing drugs -- even saying he did not know the drugs that he tested positive for, testosterone and Primobolan.
Girardi said that Rodriguez did not need to give a play-by-play account to move on.
"What I want to see from Alex is that he's continuing forward in his healing process," Girardi said. "I'm not so concerned with what his words are. People can say all the right words and may not mean it."
So when the camera lights go off and the TV trucks roll out late tonight, Girardi said that he did not believe it would be the end of Rodriguez's situation. Indeed, Rodriguez's journey may only be beginning.
"I think it's going to linger," Girardi said. "I don't think we're going to have a press conference [today] and it's just going to disappear. I think it'll linger for a few days, maybe a week. Who knows? Only time will tell."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.