New York Yankees fans got a mixed bag of news Thursday. After celebrating a Fourth of July four-game sweep of the Twins, some Yankee Doodles might have choked on their hot dogs when Alex Rodriguez proclaimed he plans on never leaving the Bronx.
"I love being a Yankee," Rodriguez told USA Today, in his first extensive interview since last October.
"I love being in New York. I never want to leave."
Not exactly "The Stars And Stripes Forever" to the Yankee organization's ears, but they may not have a choice except to have the $114 million third baseman playing until 2017.
Rodriguez is rehabbing from his second serious hip surgery since 2009, first with the Class-A Charleston RiverDogs, then with Class-A Tampa this weekend as part of his 20-day rehab assignment following the surgery in January to repair a baseball-sized hole in his hip. He went 0-for-4 in his first two games this week.
He also faces a possible suspension because of his alleged ties to baseball’s Biogenesis drug scandal.
"I know people think I’m nuts," he said. "I know most people wouldn’t want the confrontation. Most people would say, 'Get me out of here. Trade me. Do anything.'
'But I’m the (-------) crazy man who goes, 'I want to compete. I want to stay in New York. I refuse to quit.'
"Maybe it’s stupidity, I don’t know, but I’m wired to compete and give my best. I have a responsibility to be ready to play as soon as I can."
A-Rod, who was a laughing stock during in the 2012 postseason, is one of the central figures in Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic and its possible distribution of performance-enhancing drugs to 20 or more players.
In the wide-ranging interview, Rodriguez even took some time to try to put his checkered past in perspective.
"If I go out, and something happens to me, well, I know I did everything I possibly could. I know that any day could be my last. I’m just going to let the chips fall where they may.
"And you know something? I’m OK with that," he said.
"Just to have the opportunity to put on the pinstripes, and compete again at Yankee Stadium, and helping my team win, it’s a day that I’ve been dreaming about a long time now. Ultimately, say what you want about me, I’m a baseball player. That’s what I do.
"And I’m not giving up."
A-Rod put in an 80-minute on-field workout at Riley Park on Thursday, and was asked to envision what the reception might be like in New York when he rejoins the Bombers after completing this rehab assignment.
"I hope it’s positive. I am optimistic about it," Rodriguez said. "I continue to get great support from a lot of people. I’ve never played the underdog role for a long time. But I feel like it’s the way people are cheering me on and supporting me. It feels pretty good."
Rodriguez, who turns 38 on July 27, is clearly is seeing himself in a different light now after throngs of people turned out to cheer for him in his first two minor league games.
Asked if he is really the underdog, A-Rod replied, "I think so. After two hip surgeries? There’s a lot of nay-sayers. And science may bet against me. But I am excited for the challenge."
Asked if he understands why people consider him the bad guy, he said, "Sure. Everyone has their views. That’s exciting. That’s a different role and fun role to play."