The New York Yankees are preparing to start the 2013 Major League Baseball season without Alex Rodriguez, who needs surgery on his left hip that will keep him out for as long as six months after the operation.
The third baseman will need four to six weeks to prepare for the arthroscopic procedure, which will repair a torn labrum and correct bone alignment and a cyst. If surgery is performed next month, Rodriguez may be out until July and miss the first three months of the regular season, which begins April 1 against the Boston Red Sox.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said it remains to be seen how the team will offset the loss of Rodriguez, a three- time Most Valuable Player who is owed about $115 million on the remainder of his contract.
“We’re just not going to overreact,” Cashman said yesterday at baseball’s winter meetings in Nashville, Tennessee. “It’s a significant circumstance, I understand that, but I’ve been engaging the trade and free-agent market, and listening, and we will act accordingly.”
Rodriguez, a 19-year major-league veteran who has played his past nine seasons with the Yankees, batted .272 with 18 home runs and 57 runs batted in over 122 games in 2012.
He was 3-for-25 in the playoffs without an extra-base hit and struck out 12 times. Cashman said Rodriguez’s playoff struggles were probably connected to the hip injuries.
“That was a very difficult time for him,” Cashman said. “He’s got some peace of mind now having an explanation of ‘Why did I not perform to the level I was capable of?”’
Rodriguez had surgery on a torn labrum in his right hip in 2009 and needed two months to recover. Cashman said Rodriguez will now undergo a more complicated procedure with a longer recovery time because there is a bone impingement.
The Yankees first learned something was wrong with Rodriguez’s health on Oct. 10, when manager Joe Girardi pinch hit for him after an 0-for-3, two-strikeout performance. That effort left Rodriguez 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts during a playoff series with the Baltimore Orioles.
“I’ve got to talk to you about something,” Cashman quoted Rodriguez as telling Girardi. “My right hip needs to be looked at. I just don’t think I’m firing on all cylinders.”
Rodriguez had a scan on the right hip that night, with no injury found.
The left hip injury was diagnosed in an annual physical exam last month with Marc Philippon, who performed the 2009 surgery. A second surgeon confirmed the diagnosis.
“The whole left-right thing is confusing,” Michael Bronson, vice chairman of orthopedic surgery and director of the Center for Joint Replacement Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said in a telephone interview. “Pathology in one hip doesn’t cause pain in the other hip.”
Bronson, who has no specific knowledge of Rodriguez’s injury, said it was “very reasonable” for the player to only have his right hip initially examined when feeling pain in that area. However, because there can be a genetic component to hip abnormalities, Bronson added that it’s a good practice for those with one injured hip to have the other monitored as well.
Cashman said he wasn’t aware of any connection between the injury and Rodriguez’s use of steroids. The infielder said in February 2009 that he had used the banned muscle builders for three years starting in 2001 while with the Texas Rangers.
Rodriguez has 647 home runs, the most among active major- league players and fifth on the all-time list.
He was re-signed to a 10-year, $275 million contract after the 2007 season, a deal that included bonus payments for milestone home runs leading up to Barry Bonds’s record of 762. He has five years remaining and Cashman said the team will have to deal with injuries that arise along the way.
Eric Chavez, who saw time at third base last season when Rodriguez was out, is a free agent. If they don’t bring another player in, the Yankees may also consider using Eduardo Nunez or Jayson Nix at third base in Rodriguez’s absence.
“It’s not an easy position to fill,” Cashman said. “We’re going to get Alex back at some point, but other teams don’t have a third baseman. The choices aren’t pretty.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org; Erik Matuszewski in New York at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at firstname.lastname@example.org