NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez stood in the Yankee Stadium tunnel, just in front of the entrance to the home clubhouse.
He was willing to answer questions for the first time since hip surgery in January but was positioned so he could make a quick getaway if he wanted to stop responding.
"I love when all these people say, 'You can't do this. You can't do that. You're done. You're old,' " he explained before New York's opener against Boston on Monday. "It's a great challenge to prove all you guys wrong and everyone wrong."
Three months shy of his 38th birthday, Rodriguez has transformed from three-time MVP to most touchy subject. He's owed $114 million in the final five years of his contract, and he's viewed by many as a drain on payroll. That was before a January report in Miami New Times alleging he received performance-enhancing drugs from a Florida anti-aging clinic.
Making his first public comments since the Jan. 16 operation on his left hip, Rodriguez said he has heard the same schedule for his return that surgeon Bryan Kelly made public: around the All-Star break. And Rodriguez said he thinks he can return to perform at the level he once did.
"When I found out after the season was over about the big tear in my left hip, it was a bit of a relief to realize and understand how you ended last year," he said. "Once it's mended and I'm back to being 100 percent, there's no reason why I can't play at a very high level."
DEAL FOR ANDRUS: The Rangers and SS Elvis Andrus agreed to an eight-year, $120 million extension, according to several media reports. Andrus, 24, will make $131 million over 10 years in his new deal.
DAVEY ON FENCE: Davey Johnson, who is supposed to be in his final season as manager of the Nationals, isn't prepared to say for certain that he will retire. "It's my last one sitting right here, talking to you. But I don't know what lies in store for me. I have no idea," said Johnson, 70, the oldest skipper in the majors.
CARDINALS: OF Carlos Beltran said he'll play through a fractured right pinkie toe that has bothered him since the World Baseball Classic.
CUBS: 2B Darwin Barney went on the 15-day disabled list with a laceration on his left knee. INF Alberto Gonzalez was activated.
REDS: OF Ryan Ludwick dislocated his right shoulder while sliding into third.
RED SOX: DH David Ortiz said he is making progress in his recovery from soreness in both heels, and he hopes to play in minor-league or extended spring training games next week.