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Girardi not sure what to expect of A-Rod in 2015

NEW YORK — When the New York Yankees take the field against Toronto for their opener on April 6, it will be 556 days since Alex Rodriguez last played in a major league game.

Will he resemble the star who won three MVP awards?

Or will he look more like the broken-down third baseman who hasn't played a full season since 2007 due to leg injuries, operations on both hips and a season-long suspension this year for violating baseball's drug agreement and labor contract?

"Really, until he gets out there and starts playing, you're not going to know," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday.

Spring training is more than three months from now, and already the spotlight is on A-Rod.

Third base? First base? Designated hitter? The bench, if a suitable replacement is found?

Addition or distraction?

"You have the whole spectrum from minimal contributions to significant contributions," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said at the GM meetings in Phoenix. "We are certainly hoping for significant contributions. But I think as you went through the process from a general manager's standpoint, you enter that process with the expectations low and hoping for the best. But I don't think I can bank for our fan base on significant contributions and count on it and be surprised if it's not there."

The only certainty is Rodriguez becoming the focal point wherever he goes.

"When Alex has walked into spring training, when hasn't there been a lot of attention on him over the last five years?" Girardi said. "So, yeah, there's going to be attention. Some of it is going to be negative. Some of it is going to be positive. We'll deal with it."

Rodriguez was limited to 44 games in 2013 following his second hip surgery. He turns 40 next July but wants to come back to earn the $61 million he is owed in salary in the final three years of his contract.

Girardi spoke to A-Rod about potentially playing some first base on days Mark Teixeira is given off.

"I just wanted to put the thought in his mind," Girardi said. "He said let's talk about it. So, we'll sit down and talk about it."

But first is likely to be only a part-time destination.

"He may be the everyday third baseman. He may be the everyday DH," Cashman said. "I don't know."

Chase Headley, obtained from San Diego in July, could be an option to take over from Rodriguez as the primary third baseman.

"If I signed or traded for a third baseman, that would be my third baseman," Cashman said.

Headley is a free agent, and the Yankees have interest in re-signing him.

"He really shored up our defense on that side, played a great third base," Girardi said. "Grinded out at-bats, had some big hits for us and showed an extreme amount of toughness and was great in the clubhouse."

Girardi was at Yankee Stadium for the team's United Service Organizations event to pack goods for American servicemen and servicewomen.