Hip cyst puts A-Rod’s WBC in jeopardy

TAMPA, Fla. – Hours after Alex Rodriguez relished his first afternoon wearing the uniform of the Dominican Republic, the New York Yankees announced that the third baseman has a cyst on his right hip that raises doubts whether he will play in the World Baseball Classic after all.

The Yankees are sending Rodriguez on Wednesday to see a hip specialist, Dr. Marc Phillipon, in Vail, Colo.

Rodriguez was examined by team doctor Chris Ahmad and underwent an MRI Saturday, the team said, after Rodriguez complained of tightness and stiffness in his hip. Because there was no “functional pain,” the team said, Rodriguez was cleared to continue baseball activities by the team’s medical staff until Phillipon could conduct a follow-up exam.

“We felt it was in everyone’s best interest – for the team and the player – to send Alex to Dr. Phillipon, who is regarded as the leading expert in his field,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in the statement. “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.”

While the injury would not appear to be serious, it may be of sufficient concern to the Yankees that they ask Rodriguez to withdraw from the WBC. There is also the question of whether the Dominican Republic would face the kind of insurance issues that forced slugger Albert Pujols to be dropped from the team’s roster.

Rodriguez, playing third base for the Dominican Republic, doubled once in three at-bats in a 10-1 win over the Florida Marlins in Jupiter, Fla., and ran without noticeable discomfort. He ran sprints following the game, in which he played the first 4½ innings, and made no mention of the hip in comments to the media afterward.

Rodriguez, who played for Team USA in the inaugural WBC, spoke enthusiastically about his new teammates, especially shortstops Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins and Jose Reyes of the Mets. Of Reyes, he said: “I wish he was leading off on our team or playing on our team. That’s fun to watch.”

Innocent remarks on their face, but Rodriguez may have lit the fuse for a few more tabloid headlines with what could be construed as indirect criticism of Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, with whom Rodriguez has had a strained relationship. Perhaps fearing as much – or possibly alerted by a third party that the comment was imprudent – Rodriguez let it be known through a spokesman that no slight of Jeter was intended.

Gordon Edes is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Gordon a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Mar 4, 2009