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Torre is confident in A-Rod

Yankees manager Joe Torre is confident Alex Rodriguez will be fine after a second straight offseason of criticism.

"There's a lot of jealousy out there," Torre said Sunday. "That's what goes with who you are, how much you make and all that stuff. It's part of the equation, I guess. You've got to deal with it."

Torre's comments came one day after Yankees owner George Steinbrenner defended Rodriguez in the wake of criticism from Ozzie Guillen. The White Sox manager chided the All-Star third baseman for saying he would play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, then switching to the United States.

"When he gets with the team here, it will be fine. Count on A-Rod," Steinbrenner said Saturday.

A-Rod was also the target of critical comments made by several Red Sox players at the start of spring training last year.

Rodriguez and the Yankees' other position players are scheduled to report Tuesday.

McDonald to play many roles for Blue Jays

DUNEDIN - Infielder John McDonald will serve as the backup to both shortstop Russ Adams and second baseman Aaron Hill, and also help the new young players' developments.

McDonald, 31, arrived early, and has been working on fielding with Adams, 25, Hill, 23, and 22-year-old shortstop Sergio Santos, who was acquired from Arizona in the Troy Glaus trade. Infielder instructor and third-base coach Brian Butterfield thinks the young fielders have an excellent mentor in McDonald.

"They all really feed off each other. Johnny has been around the block, and they're able to watch him from close up," Butterfield said. "Johnny, besides being a very good fielder, is very sound fundamentally. So they're able to emulate him and follow things that he does. I've been pleased that they've been down here and are working their tails off."

Lieberthal focused on numbers, not naysayers

CLEARWATER - Mike Lieberthal's laid-back approach hasn't endeared him to fans in gritty Philadelphia, but the Phillies' veteran catcher would rather concentrate on his performance than worry about how he's perceived.

"I don't think about it," he said.

Last year, Lieberthal played with torn cartilage in his already surgically repaired right knee. He had surgery after the season and feels much better now.

His discomfort certainly could have contributed to his lack of production at the plate. Lieberthal hit .263 with 12 homers and 47 RBIs.

A first-round pick and No. 3 overall selection in the 1990 draft, the 34-year-old Lieberthal has been with the Phillies longer than any other athlete on any of the pro teams in Philadelphia.

- TIMES WIRES

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