A-Rod also had hip stiffness in '08

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the team is being cautious with Alex Rodriguez's ailing right hip because he had some problems with it last year.

"Alex expressed a little stiffness. There was really no pain," Girardi said on Wednesday, a day after the 33-year-old slugger played for the Dominican Republic in a tuneup for the World Baseball Classic. "We just thought it was best because he had some minor issues last year with it. We'll have a better idea after today with what the course of plan is."

The team announced on Tuesday that Rodriguez would get his hip checked by Dr. Marc Philippon in Vail, Colo., on Wednesday afternoon. An exam Saturday revealed a cyst in the hip.

"Whenever you have something going on, you're concerned," Girardi said. "The fact he didn't have a lot of pain is a little bit more comforting. He's been able to play, and play at a high level. It hasn't kept him from doing anything. It hasn't kept him from driving the baseball. That's the good thing."

Rodriguez's status for the WBC was uncertain. The Dominicans' first game is Saturday against the Netherlands in Puerto Rico.

"That will be determined by the doctor, what is Alex's and the Yankees' best interest," Girardi said. "We have to err on the side of caution. We'll let the hip specialist determine if he's ready to go [for the first WBC game] Saturday."

Dominican manager Felipe Alou said he's hoping Rodriguez will be OK for the WBC.

"As long as the spirit of this group is not affected, we can do what we want to with the guys we have here. But obviously, losing him would be a serious blow," Alou said Wednesday before his team played an exhibition against the Baltimore Orioles.

Alou can fill A-Rod's position in the field, but it would be tough for anyone to replace his potent bat.

"It's not same lineup if you lose a big RBI guy like that," Alou said. "Right now we are a running team. We showed it yesterday in the first game. We hit a ball out of the ballpark, but it was by one of the [Florida] Marlins players we borrowed from them."

If A-Rod can't play, Alou said Miguel Tejada will play third base.

It has been a rough spring training for Rodriguez.

Rodriguez arrived at the Yankees' camp last month in Tampa, Fla., shortly after a report that he had tested positive for steroids in 2003. During a news conference, he admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs during his time with the Texas Rangers, from 2001 to 2003, saying they came from the Dominican and were provided by his cousin.

The man identified as that cousin picked up Rodriguez in an SUV after the Yankees' first exhibition game against Toronto in Dunedin, Fla. The next day, the Yankees told Rodriguez that his cousin should not be anywhere near the team during spring training or the regular season.

Rodriguez met with Major League Baseball's Department of Investigations and Labor Relations Department for two hours on Sunday. MLB wanted to interview him about his use of banned substances, and the commissioner's office said Rodriguez was "cooperative."

Rodriguez went 1-for-3 with a double and scored Tuesday in the Dominicans' 10-1 win over the Florida Marlins in Jupiter, Fla. He left after 4½ innings, and did not disclose his ailment during postgame interviews.

Rodriguez felt tightness and stiffness in his right hip this spring and was examined by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad on Saturday, the Yankees said. An MRI exam showed the cyst.

The club contacted Phillipon, a specialist at Steadman-Hawkins Clinic, and Wednesday was the first day the doctor could see Rodriguez at his office.

"Alex has proven his durability throughout his career, and we will take every precaution and step necessary to ensure his health as we near the start of the 2009 regular season and beyond," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in a statement.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.