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A-Rod back, but avoids PED specifics

TAMPA, Fla. — Alex Rodriguez reported to the New York Yankees three days ahead of schedule. He spoke for 8 1/2 minutes about his season-long drug suspension.

But on his first day back with the team since September 2013, he never said why he resumed the use of performance-enhancing drugs, never explained what he did and avoided getting into any specifics.

"I cringe when I look at some of things I did," Rodriguez said, surrounded by about 40 reporters on the sidewalk outside the Yankees minor league complex. "No mistake that I made has any good answer, no justification. It's unexplainable, and that's on me. I've dug a big hole for myself. Paid a price."

New York asked him to hold a pre-spring training news conference at Yankee Stadium, but Rodriguez declined. The Yankees told them they didn't want him holding one at Steinbrenner Field, where they felt it would be a distraction.

So Rodriguez improvised.

Wearing a green University of Miami sweatsuit, he arrived at Steinbrenner Field on Monday morning for his physical, three days before the first workout for Yankees' position players. Shortly before 1 p.m., he showed up at the minor league complex, a little less than 1 mile away, carrying what appeared to be a tan bat box.

After changing into Yankees' shorts, a T-shirt and a spring training cap, Rodriguez worked out for about an hour. He hit six home runs in 71 swings and took grounders at shortstop.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman say Chase Headley will be their starting third baseman and Rodriguez will compete for at-bats at designated hitter.

Rodriguez called Headley an "excellent addition" to the team. Rodriguez did not take grounders at first base.

"I'm willing to try," he said. "When Joe needs me, I'm going to be ready. I'm here early, trying to get a jump-start. It's a process. It's going to take time."

Suspended for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract, Rodriguez apologized to team officials during a meeting at Yankee Stadium on Feb. 10 and to fans in a statement last week. His handwritten statement to fans offered no details.

"I'm fortunate for a lot of people, especially the commissioner's office, the players' union, the Yankees to give me an opportunity to play the game that I love," he said.

Asked whether he thought the Yankees' organization was on his side, Rodriguez said he didn't know.

"You'd have to ask them," he responded. "I created a big headache for a lot of people. So, I don't blame whoever is mad at me."

When asked if at any point he would address specifics regarding his mistakes, Rodriguez answered: "Right now I'm just focused on making this team. Obviously, it was a rough year."

He said he has no plans to address Yankees teammates as a group.

"I have a lot of good relationships in there," Rodriguez said. "Stayed in touch with a lot of them. I feel welcomed back."

Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July, has not played a full season since 2007 because of the suspension, operations on both hips and other injuries.