Despite missing opener, A-Rod at ease

Despite missing opener, A-Rod at ease

For the first time in his six seasons in New York, Alex Rodriguez will be absent from the lineup for a Yankee Stadium home opener.

That much was assured when Rodriguez underwent arthroscopic right hip surgery on March 9 in Vail, Colo., knocking the three-time American League Most Valuable Player out of action for a period of six to nine weeks.

Instead of taking his place on the first-base line at the Stadium opener on Thursday, Rodriguez will remain in Tampa, Fla., continuing his rehab and hoping to join the team sooner than expected.

"Watching has been very tough," Rodriguez said. "I love what I see, and we have a great team on the field. I think that's one of the reasons why I chose this intermediate surgery -- I feel like my responsibility is to be out there on the field and help this team win."

After spending weeks in Colorado following the surgery, Rodriguez laced up his spikes for the first time since Spring Training and hit on a practice field at the Yankees' Minor League complex in Tampa, performing light drills and hitting soft-toss and off a tee.

On an aggressive program, Rodriguez could get into a Minor League game by the weekend if he does not experience any setbacks.

"It's phase two," Rodriguez said. "I'm anxious to go out and do a little bit more stuff. I've been out of the pool for three weeks and doing gymnastics for about a week. This week, we'll ramp it up to some track work and more baseball stuff."

While Rodriguez obviously would prefer to be in New York, where the Yankees will be opening their gleaming cathedral, he understands that his chances of rejoining the team will be better given what is available to him in Florida.

"I'll be down here and get out there two or three times a day," Rodriguez said. "We have better weather in Tampa and a facility here. I'll get ready to play as soon as possible."

The Yankees have stuck to a May 15 projection date for Rodriguez's return, but it is entirely possible that Rodriguez could return before that.

Dr. Marc Philippon, who performed the surgery, estimated that Rodriguez would be out of the big league lineup for six to nine weeks. Nine weeks would take him to the middle of May.

"The date I keep hearing is May 15th, but Dr. Philippon says it's possible I could be back before then," Rodriguez said. "I hope so. That's what you work for. It's a long season, and we have a special team. I want to make sure that I'm going to come back."

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