A-Rod wants to focus on baseball

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez has instructed his legal team to quiet down the rhetoric with the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball because he wants the focus just to be on baseball.

"I'm shutting it all down," Rodriguez told ESPNNewYork.com. "I'm shutting it all down, just focusing on baseball, just baseball."

Rodriguez recently hired aggressive lawyer Joe Tacopina, who went through the media last weekend and into Monday to attack the Yankees, their team president and doctors, plus MLB. The Yankees and the league denied the various allegations.

Rodriguez made it clear it was his decision to retire all the off-the-field talk so he and his teammates can focus on the playoff push.

"We have 30-something games? That's the only focus," Rodriguez said. "That's coming from me."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi praised Rodriguez for only talking baseball.

"It's probably easier on Alex, easier just to focus on the game than have to focus on all the other stuff, so I commend him for it," Girardi said. "Just try to put this on the side burner right now and focus on the task at hand, and I think it's a good thing."

After playing both ends of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Blue Jays, and with a day game Thursday, Rodriguez was not in Girardi's starting lineup Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays. The 38-year-old entered Wednesday's game hitting .296 with two home runs and six RBIs in 54 at-bats.

"I chose to give him tonight off and play him [Thursday]," Girardi said.

Girardi said Rodriguez is not hurt. The Yankees entered Wednesday night 6½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East and five back in the wild card race. There are 37 games remaining in the season.

"Every game is important," Rodriguez said later to a group of reporters. "The playoffs are what we are thinking about. That is the reason that I shut everything down."

Rodriguez is appealing a 211-game suspension for violating MLB's joint drug agreement and the collective bargaining agreement.

A decision on his appeal is not expected until November at the earliest.

Rodriguez said the new approach will make the situation less of a distraction for him and the team.

"There are so many great stories going on in baseball," Rodriguez said. "And for us, we want to just focus on playing good baseball and 100 percent that all of the questions be about baseball. If there are any questions in the future that are not about baseball, the interview will end at that moment."

Yankees team president Randy Levine declined comment.

Rodriguez, speaking for the first time since Red Sox starter Ryan Dempster was suspended five games by the league for drilling him Sunday, declined to answer if he thought the penalty was severe enough.

His camp sent Tacopina on the attack in the past week after it felt leaks from MLB and/or the Yankees were designed to make Rodriguez look bad -- most specifically, the "60 Minutes" report that alleged Rodriguez leaked the involvement of teammate Francisco Cervelli and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder and 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun in the Biogenesis case. Rodriguez denied the story. MLB and the Yankees said they weren't the source for "60 Minutes."

While refuting the "60 Minutes" story Friday in Boston, Rodriguez made it clear that fireworks were on the horizon.

"Let's make one thing clear," Rodriguez said. "For the next seven weeks, it's going to be a very, very bumpy road. Every day, expect a story like this -- if not bigger."

On Saturday, Tacopina blasted the Yankees and MLB in The New York Times. Tacopina went on to talk to a few more media outlets with his message that the Yankees and MLB were conspiring to force Rodriguez and the rest of his $275 million contract to disappear any way they can.

On Monday, MLB used NBC's "Today Show" host Matt Lauer to surprise Tacopina with papers that would waive the confidentiality agreement. Tacopina had angered the league with his comments to ESPNNewYork.com over the weekend in which he went after MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred. Tacopina stated his desire to talk freely about the evidence in the case against Rodriguez.

"I will make Manfred a deal if he, in writing, waives the confidentiality clause and agrees that it would not be a breach of the confidentiality clause if he allows us to discuss exactly what he wants us to discuss, including the testing result, including the specifics of the tests, the results. We would be happy to discuss it," Tacopina said. "It would be my pleasure to discuss it. I would love to discuss it. But the minute I discuss it, I'm in violation of the confidentiality clause of the JDA."

Manfred, with Lauer as the conduit, surprised Tacopina with the papers, giving him permission to talk about anything he wanted in the case. Tacopina called it a "publicity stunt" but said he eventually would respond. Rodriguez, though, for the time being, is asking his side to stand down.

"Publicly, I want everything to be 100 percent about baseball," Rodriguez said.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com reporter Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.