Source: A-Rod uncertain of return

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez expressed some uncertainty about his return to the New York Yankees this season during a conference call Wednesday afternoon with team officials, a source familiar with the conversation told ESPNNewYork.com.

"I'm not sure when I can come back," A-Rod is said to have told general manager Brian Cashman and team president Randy Levine on the three-way call. "It could be in July. It could be in August. It could be I won't be able to play at all this year."

The account of the call seems to contradict the now-infamous tweet A-Rod sent out Tuesday night, which proclaimed the Yankees third baseman "cleared" to play in games by Dr. Bryan Kelly, who performed hip surgery on Rodriguez in January. That tweet drew an angry response from Cashman, who told ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand, "Alex should just shut the f--- up."

It coincides with a story in Thursday's New York Post that reported A-Rod had told Yankees officials in Tampa, Fla. -- where he is doing his rehab -- that his hip isn't quite ready to allow him to return to game action.

"He is not ready to play in games," the paper quoted a source as saying. "He is worried about his health."

Neither Cashman nor Levine would comment about the conference call.

Manager Joe Girardi, who was not on the call, said, "I've heard a couple conflicting reports, I guess, from sources. That's why I always say when a player gets here, he gets here. And when he's ready, he's ready. But from everything that I understand, he's been making progress, moving better day after day, so it sounds like things are pretty good."

This is the latest development in a saga that has taken on a life of its own.

On Wednesday, sources told ESPN New York that Rodriguez believed the Yankees were delaying his return in order to collect insurance on his $28 million salary. A team source confirmed it is a suspicion A-Rod has harbored for some time. In fact, he made a call to Yankees executives several months ago asking if the team was trying "to get rid of me" after his nightmarish postseason, in which he went 3-for-25 and was benched for two playoff games.

Also on Wednesday, sources told the New York Daily News that Rodriguez was rushing his return so he could then retire because of medical disability and collect his full salary before Major League Baseball could impose a lengthy suspension on him for his involvement with the Miami clinic Biogenesis.

"It's all about the money for him now," a team source said. "He knows he's not getting into the Hall of Fame and he knows he's probably going to get suspended, so he's trying to figure out a way to make sure he gets paid."

On Wednesday, Cashman and Levine both denied slowing down A-Rod's recovery.

"Make no mistake, if Alex Rodriguez is healthy, we want him and I want him playing third base for us yesterday," Cashman said. "He's doing everything, I know, in his power to get here to do that. We're clearly a better team with him. We're not holding him back. We're not trying to hold him back. We're obviously taking every step in the process."

Levine added: "Nobody wants to delay him. The sooner he comes back, the better. If he comes back healthy, he'll really help us."

According to the source familiar with Wednesday's telephone conversation, both team executives assured Rodriguez the Yankees were not trying to unload him or impede his progress for a return.

A representative for Rodriguez did not immediately return a call seeking comment.