A-Rod calls ALCS loss 'great motivation'

NEW YORK -- Even in the dead of winter, Alex Rodriguez and Curt Schilling are still going at it.

"I just hope he continues to talk about me and my teammates," the New York Yankees' third baseman said Friday. "It's going to give us great motivation to beat him up in the future."

Schilling called it a "bush-league play" after Rodriguez was called out for interference in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series last October. A-Rod, trying to beat out an infield dribbler, slapped the ball away from pitcher Bronson Arroyo near first base.

"To me it was just odd, because I mean we beat him a couple of times during the year and he was crying on the bench," Rodriguez said of Schilling. "And then he lost Game 1 and he wouldn't talk or anything. And obviously, he wins Game 6 and then he's still talking 'til today. So it's just something we as players have been accustomed to. But it's something I'm not worried about."

Schilling, reached on a cell phone Friday, said Rodriguez had his facts wrong.

"It's not true. I talked after Game 1," Schilling said. "I don't care what Alex says. When someone says that, you consider the source."

He also denied shedding tears in the dugout.

"I was upset, but I wasn't crying on the bench," Schilling said.

Pitching on an ankle tendon held in place by suture, Schilling won Game 6 and Boston became the first major-league team to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0. He then won Game 2 of the World Series, helping Boston sweep St. Louis for its first Series title since 1918.

He wasn't upset by the remarks A-Rod made during a telephone conference call Friday.

"That Alex Rodriguez doesn't like me? Not at all," Schilling said.

Asked whether he thought the comments were made for self-motivation and to stir up the rivalry, Schilling responded: "If that's what he needs, cool."

Traded by Texas to the Yankees last February after winning his first AL MVP award, Rodriguez went 2-for-17 in the final four games of the playoff series against Boston. He hit .286 during the regular season with 36 homers and 106 RBI but batted .248 with runners in scoring position and was 2-for-12 with the bases loaded.

"I played well at times, I played terrible at times," Rodriguez said. "And at the end of the day, I feel like my job was a failure because I was basically taken there to be the final part of a world championship team. So if you have to blame someone or point a finger at someone, you have to look in my direction, and I take 100 percent of the blame."

While Rodriguez hit .270 in the first half, he batted .307 after the All-Star break. Playing in New York was far different than in Seattle, where he began, or in Texas.

"It was a tough year overall to (get) used to all the different things you have to get used to, especially off the field, in New York," he said. "But I finally felt in August, September and October I was back to myself and played well and felt more comfortable."

With a record $252 million, 10-year contract, expectations are high and he knows it.

"Coming in for me was totally different than most players," he said. "I think you have to ask Rocket (Roger Clemens), myself, probably Randy (Johnson) and the upper-echelon-type of player, because there's a much grander responsibility that comes along with being who I am, and I understand that completely. ...

"To me that's the responsibility that I've always carried, and that's fine. I want those fans to expect those things from me. I expect them from myself. My salary dictates that. Everything that has to do with me, I expect to be the best at what I do," he said.

Still seeking his first World Series ring, Rodriguez said the playoff loss to Boston has been "the driving force of my winter" and admits "it's been hard to sleep thinking about that."

He predicted Johnson will have an easier adjustment to the Yankees this season -- notwithstanding the Big Unit's run-in with a television cameraman last week on a Manhattan sidewalk.

"He's going to pitch well. He's going to enjoy the run support and the good defense behind him," Rodriguez said. "And I think he's going to enjoy winning again, like he did in Arizona. As far as the other stuff, that's his issue, and I don't really think it's that big of a deal."

Clemens, who agreed to an $18 million deal with Houston on Friday, also believes Johnson will find success in the Bronx.

"I think even though he got off to a little bit of a bad start that he'll be, he'll have a great time," Clemens said. "He's going to light it up and those people are going to love, those Yankee fans are going to love what he brings to the table every time he goes to the mound."