Alex Rodriguez will start the season in what's become a familiar place: the disabled list.
The New York Yankees said Monday the third baseman will have surgery on his left hip, an injury that could sideline him until the All-Star break and may explain his spectacularly poor performance during the playoffs.
"It's a significant blow," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "But we've dealt with significant blows and, hopefully, we'll be able to deal with this one, as well."
A 14-time All-Star and baseball's priciest player at $275 million, Rodriguez has a torn labrum, bone impingement and a cyst. He will need four to six weeks of physical therapy to strengthen the hip before surgery, and the team anticipates he will be sidelined four to six months after the operation.
This will be Rodriguez's sixth trip to the disabled list in six seasons. A-Rod had right hip surgery on March 9, 2009, and returned that May 8.
"It is a more complicated surgery with a longer recovery time because there is a little bit more that needs to be done," Cashman said, citing the bone impingement. "I don't think it's age related. Butt at the same time, the older you are, the slower you're going to recover regardless. But the bottom line and the message I've been receiving is that this is a solvable issue."
Rodriguez, who turns 38 in July, complained to manager Joe Girardi of a problem with his right hip the night Raul Ibanez pinch hit for him — and hit a tying ninth-inning home run — against Baltimore during Game 3 of the AL division series in October. He went to New York-Presbyterian Hospital's emergency room and was checked out then.
"Up to this point, there was no complaints of any nature at all from his hip, or anything really," Cashman said. "At that point Joe went to Alex in the dugout and said, 'I'm going to pinch hit for you and we're going to pinch hit Ibanez,' and Alex said to Joe at that moment, 'OK,' he said, 'I've got to talk to you about something. I think my right hip needs to be looked at. I just don't feel like I'm firing on all cylinders.'"
Cashman said the test on the right hip "was clean" and the left hip was not examined.
"I can tell you if a patient shows up in the emergency room with a complaint, they're going to focus on where the complaint is, not something else," he said.
Rodriguez, owed $114 million by New York over the next five years, remained a shell of his former self on the field. He was benched in three of nine postseason games and pinch hit for in three others. He batted .120 (3 for 25) with no RBIs in the playoffs, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers.
A-Rod broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch from Seattle's Felix Hernandez on July 24. He returned Sept. 3 and hit .195 with two homers and six RBIs over the final month of the regular season.
Cashman said Rodriguez's left hip injury was detected last month when he had an annual physical in Colorado with Dr. Marc Philippon, who operated on the right hip 3 1-2 years ago. Rodriguez got a second opinion from Dr. Bryan Kelly of New York's Hospital for Special Surgery, who will operate on A-Rod next month, and the injury was made public Monday by the New York Post.
Cashman said "they're not your typical injuries" but wouldn't speculate whether they are related to steroids use. Rodriguez admitted in 2009 that he used steroids while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03.
"It doesn't matter what I wonder," Cashman said.
With Derek Jeter, who turns 39 in June, coming off surgery to repair a broken ankle, the left side of the Yankees' infield could be even more of a defensive problem.
Jeter expects to be ready for opening day. Eric Chavez, who filled in for Rodriguez for parts of the last two seasons, is a free agent and Cashman said there are few options on the market.
Rodriguez had a strained quadriceps in 2008, the hip surgery in 2009, a strained calf in 2010, knee surgery in 2011 and the broken hand this year. While he is fifth on the career list with 647 home runs, he had just 34 the last two seasons.
"When he's healthy — obviously at one point he was spectacular," Cashman said. "One player doesn't make a team, and so we have a full roster of guys plus our farm system behind that that's going to have to fill in. We've done it before."
NOTES: Toronto claimed C Eli Whiteside off waivers from the Yankees, who claimed him from San Francisco last month.