Yankees and the Steinbrenners are actually praising A-Rod

Written By kom nampuldu on Kamis, 02 April 2015 | 18.18

TAMPA — Come late Friday afternoon, Alex Rodriguez's Grapefruit League statistics will vanish and, like the rest of his ball-playing fraternity, he will start fresh next week when the games count.

What won't go away is an accomplishment that, seven weeks ago, seemed just as unlikely as A-Rod making himself so viable in the Yankees' plans.

For now, at least, Rodriguez's employers no longer view him as a pariah. The 39-year-old has scored major points with his good behavior at spring training, so much so that Hank Steinbrenner, Yankees general partner and co-chairperson, has welcomed Rodriguez's participation in an upcoming golf charity event.

"Personally, I'm very pleased [with Rodriguez]," Steinbrenner told The Post on Wednesday, at the ballpark named after his father George. "I'm proud of him right now."

Steinbrenner stressed he was speaking only for himself, not the Yankees organization, but his take on A-Rod hardly stands out among his crowd. Steinbrenner's brother Hal, the Yankees' managing general partner, spoke of Rodriguez last week in an interview with WFAN.

"I think he's done a great job," Hal Steinbrenner said. "He's been positive. He's out here working hard. He's playing well. He's been great with the fans."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, asked about Rodriguez last Sunday, told reporters, "I thought he's handled himself, both on the field and obviously in the clubhouse and in his interviews with you guys extremely well. It's been about baseball, and he's done really well on that level, too."

These words represent the long path traveled since Feb. 10, when A-Rod and his attorney Jim Sharp met with his bosses at Yankee Stadium and expressed contrition for his behavior in 2013 — when, you surely recall, he waged a two-front battle against the Yankees and Major League Baseball in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to appeal a lengthy suspension for illegal performance-enhancing drug usage.

The Yankees acknowledged the apology, yet privately, they regarded this truce as uneasy, vulnerable to the ugliest of breakups. Though any veteran of Life With A-Rod knows peace accords can unravel quickly, it's a surprise this current era of good feelings came together so smoothly and swiftly.

Recently, Rodriguez approached Yankees community relations consultant Ray Negron and expressed his interest in rejoining the endeavors to help Bronx-area youth, in which Rodriguez routinely had participated prior to his suspension. Negron alerted A-Rod to the Hank's Yanks Golf Classic, which is scheduled to debut July 6 at the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point. The event, run by former Yankees official Mike "Red" Walsh, will raise funds for the Hank's Yanks youth teams — both their baseball equipment and travel and their community outreach activities — that Steinbrenner has overseen. (You can learn more about sponsorship opportunities at http://www.hanksyanksgolf.com/)

Rodriguez quickly agreed to attend. He likely will serve as a "host" for the post-golf activities, posing for photos with donors and the like.

"I'm pretty excited about it," Rodriguez said.

"It's great," Hank Steinbrenner said. "I'm very pleased that he's going to do that. It'll mean a lot."

Look, A-Rod wouldn't be around if not for the $61 million the Yankees still owe him through 2017. Yet for all of those overly moralistic finger-waggers who insist George Steinbrenner would've kicked Rodriguez to the curb, it is worth remembering that The Boss almost always gave people second (and third, and more) chances. By welcoming A-Rod back into the fold so dramatically, Hank Steinbrenner honors his father's legacy.

"I think so," said Hank Steinbrenner, who will meet with Donald Trump in New York on April 14 to discuss the tournament. "It's a matter of, he's turned it around, and he's got a completely different attitude. And it's for real, I think. He's working his [butt] off. He's swinging the bat good. He can definitely help us."

In the Yankees' 3-0 loss to the Rays on Wednesday, Rodriguez started at designated hitter and hit seventh, going 0-for-2 with a walk, a strikeout and a groundout to shortstop. He now owns a .308/.426/.564 slash line in 47 plate appearances, providing hope to the team that there might be some return left on the team's massive investment.

He received more boos than usual, probably because many in the crowd supported the area Rays. At Monday's Opening Day, bet on a high percentage of Stadium cheers — especially, surprisingly, from the suites that house the Yankees' bigwigs.

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