(Reuters) - Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees on Thursday agreed on a timetable for his return from a strained quadriceps, a day after clashing on the beleaguered slugger's use of a second opinion to support a claim he was ready to play.
Rodriguez, who has yet to play this season after having hip surgery and is in the cross-hairs of a Major League Baseball probe into performance enhancing drugs, will play either a rehab or simulated game by August 1 and then be re-evaluated, General Manager Brian Cashman said on a conference call.
Cashman said that he, team president Randy Levine, the team trainer, Rodriguez and his lawyer all agreed on the protocol for his return.
Earlier, Rodriguez had issued a statement reiterating his eagerness to get back in action.
"I think the Yanks and I crossed signals," Rodriguez said in a statement. "I don't want any more mix ups. I'm excited and ready to play and help this team win a championship.
"I feel great, and I'm ready and want to be in the lineup Friday night. Enough doctors, let's play."
Rodriguez will not get his wish to return to the Yankee lineup in time for this weekend's home series against Tampa Bay, but was on the same page as the team, Cashman said.
Not so on Wednesday, when Dr. Michael Gross, chief of orthopedics at Hackensack Medical Center in New Jersey, went to New York media outlets on Rodriguez's behalf to say he had reviewed an MRI of the left quad and saw no reason to sit A-Rod.
Gross admitted he had not examined Rodriguez and only spoke to him on the phone about the injury that showed up in a test taken Sunday after Rodriguez complained of tightness in his leg.
Cashman also said Rodriguez took another test on Wednesday that showed some improvement but that the initial diagnosis stood and the team just wanted to be sure he was physically ready to return.
The Yankees still owe Rodriguez, who turns 38 this month, about $100 million on a deal that runs through 2017.
The prospects of a possible suspension for his ties to a now-shut, Florida anti-aging clinic that dispensed performance enhancing drugs has stirred conspiracy theories about whether the club might be looking for a way out of the contract or a way to collect insurance on the sidelined slugger.
Wayne McDonnell, Jr., a clinical Associate Professor of Sports Management at NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies, takes the Yankees and Rodriguez at their word.
"I do believe that Alex Rodriguez wants to return to playing baseball. I don't think he's looking for the big buyout ... he wants to get back to normalcy for him.
"Let's face it, the Yankees understand that once they put Alex Rodriguez back in the lineup their production is going to increase," he said about the injury-hit team's struggles this season to score runs in their quest for a playoff berth.
While acknowledging that the relationship between A-Rod and the Yankees was "severely damaged" and that both sides were having "trust issues," McDonnell said they were acting in self interest.
"The Yankees are trying to act in the best interest of their ball club and Alex Rodriguez just wants to get back to playing baseball," he said. "Those are probably the two safest things to say right now. Everything else is just speculation."
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)