A-Rod apologizes to SI's Roberts

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez has called Sports
Illustrated's Selena Roberts to apologize for critical comments he
made during an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons.

Roberts was co-author of the Feb. 7 article on SI's Web site
that reported he was on a list of 104 players who tested positive
for steroids during baseball's anonymous 2003 survey.

told Gammons two days later that he had used banned substances from
2001 to '03 while playing for Texas.

"I know this lady from Sports Illustrated, Selena Roberts, is
trying to throw things out there that in high school I tried
steroids. I mean, that's the biggest bunch of baloney I've ever
heard in my life," he told Gammons, adding that "this lady is coming
out with all these allegations, all these lies."

Roberts is writing a book "A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex
Rodriguez," due for publication by HarperCollins on April 14.

Roberts said Sunday that Rodriguez called her last Wednesday.
She didn't want to comment on the call until Rodriguez holds a news
conference after arriving at spring training Tuesday.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi plans to attend to show his support for the three-time AL MVP, who last week admitted using banned substances while playing for the Rangers. Several Yankees players also have told the team they want to be there.

"I think it shows the unity of the club, and I think that's real important," Girardi said Sunday. "I think it's important that teammates back teammates, and they're there for each other, and they know during difficult times they can lean on each other. Because, you know what? There's going to be something else that comes up this year that's difficult maybe for a player to get through."

When Andy Pettitte arrived for a difficult news conference last Feb. 18, he entered the tent behind third base and unexpectedly saw Yankees captain Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera off to his right, sitting in a row.

"My boys are hanging out over there," Pettitte said, happy to see them.

He then spent 55½ minutes apologizing and explaining why he had used human growth hormone.

Rodriguez will have an audience of Yankees for his 1:30 p.m. ET news conference Tuesday after he arrives at spring training. Yankees position players report Tuesday and start workouts the following day.

"He's excited. He said, 'I can't wait to start playing baseball,'" Girardi said of Rodriguez, recounting a Saturday conversation he had with his third baseman. "I think this is another step in the healing process and getting through this."

Girardi has been trying to check in with Rodriguez every other day but doesn't think he needs to give too much counsel. "I'm sure he's got a lot of people in his ear," the manager said.

Rodriguez has a large management team starting with agent Scott Boras and his staff. Then there's Guy Oseary, A-Rod's manager, a former recording company executive who also manages Madonna.

A-Rod signed with the William Morris Agency last summer to extend his brand beyond baseball, and his personal spokesman is Richard Rubenstein, son of Howard Rubenstein, whose company represents Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and the team.

Boras said last week that Rodriguez also had hired the consulting firm Outside Eyes, which according to its Web site provides "media strategy, brand development and crisis management." It is headed by Reed Dickens, a former White House assistant press secretary under President George W. Bush, and the company Web site says Outside Eyes maintains a "war room" for monitoring news and formulating a rapid response.

In addition, Rodriguez can rely on the Yankees' front office and their legal and media staffs, and officials at the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Girardi anticipates Rodriguez will dominate Yankees discussion during the next few days.

"I don't think dread is the word that I would necessarily use, but let me tell you I'm really looking forward to getting beyond Tuesday," Girardi said. "I think it will linger a little bit, I think like Andy's did in a sense, and maybe to a little larger magnitude just because people stay around for a little bit. Everyone can't stay around forever. There's other stories in the world -- hopefully fairly quickly."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.