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Yankees’ opening day: Expect an A-Rod sighting

Alex Rodriguez (first row) watched the Sony Open last week in Key Biscayne, Fla., with Greg Norman (rear, left). (Alan Diaz / AP)
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The New York Yankees open their season today with a game against the Boston Red Sox and, although his role is uncertain, third baseman Alex Rodriguez is expected to attend the game at Yankee Stadium.

A-Rod, who is recovering from hip surgery in January and is not expected to play until midseason, has not been with the team in spring training. Nor has he been seen in the Bronx since Game 2 of the American League Championship Series. He was booed lustily — and then some — as he went 3-for-25 in the postseason and failed to drive in a run. Today, it isn’t clear whether he’ll be in uniform and be introduced with the team.

“I haven’t asked,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “I don’t see why he wouldn’t necessarily do it. He’s part of our team. I don’t know what the expectation is. But he’s part of our team and I’m looking forward to seeing him.”

On Facebook on Friday, A-Rod is shown working out, with the words, “The rehab journey continues. Ready to support the New York Yankees.”

He should. The team is going to be paying him handsomely for years to come, as the New York Times reminded everyone Sunday.

But now, five years into the contract, that financial commitment hangs ominously over opening day, threatening to impose itself on virtually every decision the Yankees make and severely hampering management’s ability to cope with the shortcomings of an aging roster.
As the Yankees prepare to open the 2013 season Monday — without the injured Rodriguez — the team still owes him $114 million through the end of 2017, when he will be 42.
“At the time, there was an expectation that A-Rod would be breaking all the home run records by the end of the contract, and that is exciting for the fans,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College and an expert in sports business. “But now it’s eating up an enormous amount of payroll, and it has clearly become an albatross for the Yankees.”

Nor has anyone forgotten that Miami News Times reported in January that A-Rod had purchased human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis of America, which he has denied.

What can one expect from a roster filled with injured and, to put it politely, extremely veteran players? Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes and Derek Jeter are all out, along with A-Rod. But at least Mariano Rivera is back.

“Everyone wrote us off last year after Mariano Rivera tore up his knee, and said the season was over,” General Manager Brian Cashman told ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor. “And they were all wrong. We still won 95 games and got to the ALCS.

“We’ve been pretty good the last 15 years of finding a way of overcoming the obstacles in front of us. My job is to put together a team that can reach the postseason so we have a chance to win the World Series once we get there. I still think we can do that.”

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