TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez has found himself at the center of several different controversies lately -- from Major League Baseball's investigation into the Biogenesis clinic to his recent Twitter post that irked general manager Brian Cashman -- but Yankees captain Derek Jeter said A-Rod won't be a distraction whenever he returns to the Bronx.
"Why would he be a distraction?" said Jeter, who worked out at George M. Steinbrenner Field with Rodriguez on Thursday morning. "You guys [in the media] may be a distraction to him if you ask him questions, but I've never seen how someone can be a distraction to a team, you know what I mean? Because we don't have to deal with it.
"As far as [reporters] being a distraction to him, I'm sure he probably gets tired of answering questions. There's no way he can be a distraction to us."
Jeter and A-Rod fielded ground balls, took batting practice at the Yankees' Spring Training home and drove back to the club's Minor League complex on Himes Avenue together Thursday. Jeter spoke highly of the effort Rodriguez has put into his rehab from left hip surgery and expressed confidence that Rodriguez could be a valuable contributor when he rejoins the Yankees.
"Of course, yeah. Alex works extremely hard," Jeter said. "He's working hard now to get back, so of course."
There has been speculation that Rodriguez is contemplating retirement, according to an anonymous source cited in a New York Post report. Yet Rodriguez, who drove past reporters as he left the Yankees' complex Thursday afternoon, has issued statements through a publicist stating his desire to "get me back in pinstripes and help my team win."
Jeter doesn't see a player who's even considering calling it a career, either.
"He's here," Jeter said. "I don't see why he would be looking to retire in terms of how hard he's playing."
The 37-year-old slugger posted a Twitter message Tuesday night in which he announced that his hip surgeon, Dr. Bryan Kelly, cleared A-Rod to begin playing. Cashman responded to Rodriguez's tweet by telling ESPN New York that Rodriguez "should just shut ... up," though the GM admitted Wednesday he regretted his choice of words.
The Yankees have not announced a specific timetable regarding A-Rod's return or even when he'll begin playing Minor League rehab games. But they have said for quite some time that Rodriguez should be back in New York's lineup at some point after the All-Star break. Two reports Thursday also conveyed conflicting information on his progress. The New York Post reported, citing a source close to the third baseman, A-Rod told the Yankees his injured hip isn't ready to handle playing in rehab games yet. The New York Daily News, on the other hand, reported that Rodriguez is attempting to speed up his recovery timetable and begin playing sooner rather than later.
Manager Joe Girardi called the reports "conflicting," and said the reports he's hearing from the Yankees' training staff in Tampa, Fla., are still positive.
"That's why I always say, for me, 'When he gets here, he gets here. When he's ready, he's ready,'" Girardi said. "Everything that I understand -- he's been making progress and has moved better day after day, so it sounds like things are pretty good."
Outfielder Curtis Granderson, also rehabbing in Tampa, said he only sees Rodriguez in passing at the Minor League complex because they're on different schedules. Granderson doesn't see Rodriguez in the batting cages, for instance, because Rodriguez does his hitting on the field before taking simulated at-bats -- a sign that A-Rod's rehab is heading in the right direction, even if nobody seems to know when he will reach the finish line.
"He's so much closer than I am, which is a good thing," Granderson said. "I asked him how'd it feel hitting in the game the one day. He felt good, supposed to graduate to whatever the next step is ... which is what everyone wants. Each day, a step closer, a step closer."