'Relieved' A-Rod not far from return

'Relieved' A-Rod not far from return

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez called it the "longest and the loudest" 40 minutes he could imagine, but soon after the Yankees slugger emerged from an MRI tube on Friday afternoon, he was able to exhale.

For all intents and purposes, Rodriguez appeared to receive the best possible news from the Yankees' team physician. The third baseman was diagnosed with tendinitis in his right hip flexor and seems to be a matter of days -- not weeks -- from returning to New York's lineup.

"Overall, I feel very happy, very relieved," Rodriguez said after the Yankees' 4-3 victory over the Astros. "You go in hoping for the best. Today, we got a really good answer."

Rodriguez was examined by Dr. Christopher Ahmad in New York and is considered day-to-day by the Yankees. Manager Joe Girardi acknowledged that it could make sense to hold A-Rod out to take advantage of Monday's off-day, allowing the slugger additional rest.

"I wouldn't count on him in there [on Saturday afternoon]," Girardi said. "I'll continue to talk to our trainers and our doctors. Hopefully, it's sooner than later."

One day after Rodriguez removed himself from a 4-3 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore after one inning with what he described as tightness in his right groin, the Yankees considered the doctor's findings to be positive news.

Because of the injury's proximity to Rodriguez's surgically repaired right hip, which knocked him out for the first month-plus of last season, it was easy to immediately consider the worst-case scenario.

"For me, just because of the proximity to my hip, that was one of my concerns," Rodriguez said. "There's no relation -- that's what I understood."

Rodriguez was originally supposed to have a second procedure after the 2009 season, but Dr. Marc Phillipon -- who performed the March surgery in Vail, Colo. -- provided Rodriguez with a clean bill of health, estimating that the hip was back to more than 95 percent strength.

"That's not a concern of mine, because it feels pretty darn strong, to be honest with you," Rodriguez said. "I think that's the first, second and third question you ask immediately. They assured me that it has nothing to do with a second surgery or deteriorating. That's very encouraging."

The Yankees thought that Rodriguez might have been available to pinch-hit on Friday, but he spent all of the evening in the training room receiving treatment and said he probably could have come into the dugout only for an emergency situation.

It was in Toronto over the weekend that Rodriguez's groin first started to create issues, leading to his removal in the ninth inning of Saturday's game.

Rodriguez managed the affected area with extra stretching and played the first two games against the Orioles, but he froze on an Adam Jones grounder to his left in the first inning on Thursday and immediately signaled to utility man Ramiro Pena that he should begin getting warmed up.

That left the Yankees short-handed, with the light-hitting Pena assuming the cleanup spot in the lineup, but Girardi said that he understood why A-Rod would want to try to play.

"I'm not upset, because I was a player once," Girardi said. "Every time I was stiff, I didn't run to the manager and say, 'I'm not sure I'm going to be able to go today.'

"You want to play, and you want your players to want to play. If the players in that clubhouse only went out when they felt 95 to 100 percent, we'd have a hard time putting a lineup up every day."

Girardi acknowledged that it raises "a red flag" any time Rodriguez complains about an issue near his hip, given how important he is to the Yankees' lineup, but the manager said it's a relief that Rodriguez does not appear to be looking at an extended break like the one he endured last season.

"The good news to me is that it's not his labrum which he had surgery on," Girardi said. "It's not his hip socket. To me, this is about as good news as we could have got."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.