TAMPA — Yankees captain Derek Jeter said he's disappointed in Alex Rodriguez for using performance-enhancing drugs, but though he doesn't condone what Rodriguez did, he still respects the All-Star third baseman and will support him.
Jeter also told reporters Wednesday that the steroid scandal surrounding Rodriguez — whose admission that he used a banned substance from 2001-03 has dominated talk in camp — has been the biggest distraction in his 14 years with the Yankees.
Jeter, who addressed Rodriguez's situation for the first time after the opening full-squad workout, said he believed Rodriguez's explanation for injecting a substance from the Dominican Republic called "boli" twice a month over three seasons, adding, "Everybody makes mistakes." The Yankees shortstop was one of 25 teammates who attended Rodriguez's news conference Tuesday and who said their presence sent a message that they're behind him.
Jeter said the most upsetting thing is how people label the recent past the steroid era, implying that all players used banned substances. "Everybody wasn't doing it," he said.
"I don't condone anything (Rodriguez) did," Jeter said. "He doesn't condone anything he did. He understands it was a mistake."
Rodriguez received a warm reception from the approximately 1,600 fans at Wednesday's workout, when he was the last Yankee to jog on the field for stretching. With a couple of dozen reporters and photographers following Rodriguez's every move, fans yelled out, "Alex, we love you!" and "We believe you A-Rod!" Though Rodriguez didn't speak to reporters — "I'll talk tomorrow, guys" — manager Joe Girardi said he looked happy to be back on the field. Girardi said it was a "pretty normal day" as the club tries to put the saga behind it.
"I forgive him," said Yankees fan Jesse Veliz, a 10-year-old from Coral Springs. "You should be given a second chance."
Veliz held up a sign while sitting on the Steinbrenner Field steps: "A-Rod + Yanks = 2009 champs." As Jeter acknowledged, getting a typical season from Rodriguez is important to their success.
"He's a guy we look up to, he's our best player," catcher Jorge Posada said. "I think after what happened (Tuesday) he's able to sit down and acknowledge everything. And it takes a lot to do what he did. … Now we move on and can go out and play."
NOTES: Girardi said that Hideki Matsui will not play outfield and will only DH through spring training due to his troublesome left knee. … Girardi is leaning toward batting switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira third in front of Rodriguez. … Andy Pettitte declined to comment on an Associated Press report that federal prosecutors interviewed him last week in an investigation into whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.