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MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL A-Rod won't fire back at Red Sox



Published: Mon, February 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Yankees third baseman even agreed with some his rivals' critiques.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez already envisioned the headline: "A-Rod doesn't back up A-Rod."

Boston's bulls-eye arrived at spring training Sunday after a string of critical comments by the Red Sox. The biggest target on the Evil Empire declined to strike back. He even concurred on one of the salvos.

"As far as earning your stripes, I really couldn't agree [more] with Trot Nixon and the guys that have said that because hopefully in due time, when I pay the price like Paul O'Neill and Roger Clemens did, then the fans of New York would realize that, hopefully, I'm a Yankee," Rodriguez said.

Reporting two days ahead of the first full-squad workout, Rodriguez said he had not been keeping up with what he called the "bulletin board stuff," relating how he was occupied with his 3-month-old daughter and illnesses to two family members.

Yet, he was aware of at least a few of the zingers fired from Fort Myers, where the World Series champions opened camp last week. The $252 million man said the attacks were "a little perplexing."

"The bottom line is they won. They've earned the right to say whatever they need to say," Rodriguez said.

A welcome arrival

Dressed in a white polo shirt and blue jeans, he spoke with reporters in the Yankees clubhouse at Legends Field, then did another interview for television cameras in the dugout. He walked onto the field to cheers from the fans in the stands and spent 4 minutes signing autographs. Across the street at the minor league complex, he homered on 15 of 67 swings against Yankees executive Mark Newman.

As usual, Rodriguez sounded quite polished. He didn't mind that none of his teammates responded to the Red Sox.

"It just tells you how classy our organization is. Our players, they don't get caught up in that everyday stuff," he said. "And I appreciate their position. I'm going to say the same thing, probably. They'll say that I'm not supporting myself. And that will probably be a big story, too."

Ever since he hit 2-for-17 in the final four games of the playoff loss to Boston, Rodriguez has indicted himself for the defeat.

"Blame it on me. If there's one guy to blame, you've got to look right here," he said,

He treats the sniping, which has been front- and backpage news, as trivial.

"I think all of this is good for the game, believe it or not, as funny as it may be," he said.

Explaining the chop

He made light of the slap play in Game 6 of the AL championship series, when he hit an infield dribbler, swatted at pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove and knocked the ball loose.

After umpires huddled, he was called out for interference. Rodriguez said "it took a lot of guts" for the umps" to make that call in Yankee Stadium, "in that environment."

"I thought it was a brilliant play. We almost got away with it," Rodriguez said. "I was stuck in an alley, boys, there was no place to go. And I gave my karate. I only got to yellow belt, but I gave them my karate. And, again, I think Brandon's a great pitcher. I played with him in high school."

Brandon? Rodriguez hit a winning homer against Arroyo in high school. Still, he got his first name wrong.

"It's probably intentional, I would think," Arroyo said. "I heard he's a student of the game. It could have been a simple mistake, but I doubt it. Who knows? Maybe he thinks I'm a nobody."

Kevin Millar also took a shot at A-Rod on Sunday.

"You don't need to tell people you're an upper-tier player," he said.

"You don't need to tell people that you work out seven hours a day."

Rodriguez said he won't talk about his off-season workouts again. And he belittled Jose Canseco, who called him "a phony" in his autobiography.

"With my new life and my daughter being born, you realize you only care about the opinions of those who are really in your intimate circle," A-Rod said.

"I don't consider Jose to be in that circle."




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