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Bloom: A-Rod, Torre downplay drama

Bloom: A-Rod, Torre downplay drama

LOS ANGELES -- Just to be clear about it, Alex Rodriguez said he wasn't trying to avoid Joe Torre prior to Friday night's much-hyped 2-1 Yankees victory over the Dodgers. And Torre, the long-time New York manager and now Los Angeles skipper, said he didn't take what many thought was a snub as a sign of disrespect.

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"I didn't see him," Rodriguez said. "But I'm sure we'll have a chance to meet up. I'm sure we'll get an opportunity to talk at some point."

A-Rod, whose homer and double in the game generated both New York runs, was stretching about 10 feet from Torre as the Dodgers took batting practice at Dodger Stadium. Torre meandered around the Yankees dugout side of the batting cage in what seemed like an endless meet and greet.

Joe Girardi, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes were among the many who came over to hug and chat with their former manager. In the end, Torre was standing in that spot talking to Reggie Jackson when Rodriguez leaped up and headed toward right field without turning his head.

Dozens of cameramen waiting to record the moment wandered away. Torre headed toward the clubhouse as the Yankees replaced the Dodgers on the field.

"I don't look at that as disrespect, trust me," Torre said. "I don't know what to say, but I certainly don't want to dump on Alex that it's disrespect. I was just over there, and he was busy doing other things. If we had come close enough, I'm sure we would have shook hands."

Rodriguez said he expects that to happen sometime this weekend as the two teams meet again on Saturday and Sunday evenings. At issue may be some comments that were attributed to Torre in his 2009 book entitled, "The Yankee Years."

In it, Torre talked about A-Rod's fragile psyche and mimicked a play on words used by his teammates at the time to describe Rodriguez as "A-Fraud."

A-Rod may have inflamed tensions this week in Phoenix when he chose not to answer questions about Torre when the Yankees took two out of three from the D-backs. But he didn't back down on Friday night.

"Look, [Torre] was here for a long time," said Rodriguez, addressing the issue after the game. "I can't say I had the same relationship I had with him that Jorge and Pettitte and Jetes had with him. I'd be lying to you. Those guys had a 10-12 year history and won a lot of championships together. But overall, I think it was a good experience. On the positive side, I think I learned a lot from him. I'll remember him for the good things."

A-Rod, who played four seasons for Torre from 2004-07, shared the spotlight with his former manager all night. In the game, he opened the second with an opposite-field double off Vicente Padilla and scored on Posada's single to tie the score at 1. With one in the sixth, Rodriguez took Padilla deep into the left-field pavilion. His 10th homer of the season and 593rd of his career turned out to be the difference-maker.

As late as the fourth inning this past Tuesday night, A-Rod was 2-for-21 with no homers and three RBIs in his return from a sore right hip flexor. Since then, he's 5-for-10 with two homers and six RBIs, giving him 51 on the season.

"How long was that going to last?" Torre said about A-Rod's slump. "He's so dangerous just because of his ability to hit the ball out anywhere in the ballpark."

It was the perfect nightmare for Torre.

Mariano Rivera replaced CC Sabathia in the ninth and struck out the side in order. Though Torre questioned the three successive strikes called on the final batter, James Loney, saying that plate umpire Phil Cuzzi's judgment was "terrible," it hardly mattered.

Three of Torre's former charges -- Posada, A-Rod and Rivera -- had combined to beat his current club. It reminded Torre how tough it is to manage against any Yankees team, particularly with Rivera still a lights-out closer.

"It just amazes me what [Rivera] is still doing at 40," said Torre, viewing the world now from the other side. "He's probably not an ounce heavier than he was back then. He's a very special individual."

Torre called the night "very emotional," adding that he was happy to get all the pregame hoopla out of the way. He said he had a very special relationship with Posada. He and the catcher had clashed back in their early Yankees days, circa 1996-97 and were still able to build a special bond.

But he remains perplexed about A-Rod wondering why there should be any acrimony.

"I don't know what there is to iron out, because I don't think there's anything to keep us from acknowledging each other," Torre said.

And A-Rod?

"We're going to be here for three days," he said. "There's no rush. If he wants to talk, I'm more than willing to talk to him."

They have until Sunday.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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