Baseball notebook

Yankees support A-Rod

They'll back him at news conference

Associated Press / February 17, 2009
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Alex Rodriguez will have a thick pinstriped wall of New York Yankees looking on during his news conference today, with teammates coalescing around A-Rod following his admission that he used banned drugs.

The Yankees still didn't know how many specifics of his drug use Rodriguez plans to divulge when he speaks in the tent behind the third-base stands at Steinbrenner Field.

"I don't think it's necessary in my eyes that he answer every detail," manager Joe Girardi said yesterday.

While Andy Pettitte spoke from the heart during his news conference a year ago admitting use of human growth hormone, the image-conscious Rodriguez appears to be formulating his strategy surrounded by an entourage large enough to fill a television series.

Even before Sports Illustrated reported on its website Feb. 7 that Rodriguez tested positive for a pair of steroids during baseball's supposedly secret survey in 2003, Team A-Rod included agent Scott Boras, William Morris Agency manager Guy Oseary and their staffs.

He has retained James E. Sharp, a lawyer who represented Pettitte and Sammy Sosa before Congress and then-President George W. Bush in front of a federal prosecutor. Rodriguez also brought in Outside Eyes, a media strategy and crisis management company based in Newport Beach, Calif., that includes communications specialists from Republican campaigns.

While Yankees officials were in charge of Pettitte's news conference, the team was uncertain who would run today's session, scheduled for live television transmission by the team's YES Network, which will provide its feed to other networks.

"I don't think it's window dressing," Girardi said of Rodriguez's teammates' support. "I think it's out of their hearts and their feelings for Alex and them wanting to stand behind him and help him through this situation."

Hampton sidelined
Astros lefthander Mike Hampton, 36, returned to Houston after a routine physical turned up a minor irregularity in his heartbeat. Hampton was to be examined by team physician Jim Muntz before undergoing a procedure to correct the heartbeat with an electrical current. The Astros hope to have him back in camp Thursday . . . Lefthander Odalis Perez missed the first official workout for Nationals pitchers and catchers, reportedly because he isn't happy with his contract. The pitcher and the Nationals agreed to a non-guaranteed minor league contract Feb. 5; he would get $850,000 if he makes the major league club this season . . . Catcher Joe Mauer's goal is to be behind the plate when the regular season begins April 6, but he said he won't be ready to play in the Twins' exhibition opener Feb. 25. The reigning AL batting leader had surgery Dec. 22 to remove a blockage from one of his kidneys. He has been told not to run until his abdominal muscles heal. "I'm on schedule to where I should be," Mauer said.

Cards sign Ludwick
Outfielder Ryan Ludwick and the Cardinals agreed to a $3.7 million, one-year contract and avoided an arbitration hearing. Ludwick made $421,000 last year, when he had a breakout season with 37 homers, 113 RBIs, and a .299 average . . . The Mariners have signed top draft choice Josh Fields, ending an eight-month stalemate. Seattle selected Fields, considered the best closer in college baseball, with the 20th overall pick last June out of Georgia . . . Greg Maddux, who retired in December after winning 355 games during a 23-year career, has agreed to become a spring training instructor for the Padres.

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