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Rodriguez's hip was fine until he experienced stiffness during spring training this year. He was examined by team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad and underwent an MRI last Saturday
"The MRI we did showed some changes in that hip area," Cashman said. "What he's dealing with now is obviously something more significant. There is no pain, which is a good thing."
Rodriguez's 138 games last season were his fewest since 1999, when he tore the medial meniscus in his left knee during a spring training agility drill on March 30. He played in the first two games of that season with Seattle, then was put on the disabled list April 7 and missed 32 games until he returned May 14.
If Rodriguez is sidelined, New York would have to replace its third baseman and cleanup hitter, behind new first baseman Mark Teixeira.
"That's going to hurt not only this team, but the Yankees," said Robinson Cano, Rodriguez's teammate on both his club and national team. "He's a guy we're going to miss."
The leading internal candidate to take over at third would be Cody Ransom, a 33-year-old who has a .251 average and 24 RBIs in 183 at-bats over six major league seasons.
"I think the team will try and pick up the slack until he's ready," Ransom said. "Hopefully it's not too long. You can't really replace what he does."
Since joining the Yankees before the 2004 season, Rodriguez has averaged 42 homers and 123 RBIs to go along with a .303 batting average.
"He's very important for us," catcher Jorge Posada said. "You lose a guy like him -- we've got a good lineup -- but he's the guy that puts it all together."
Rodriguez's hip is the latest injury concern for a team worried whether Posada (shoulder), Mariano Rivera (shoulder) and Hideki Matsui (knee) will bounce back from operations.
Posada is hopeful he'll be able to play behind the plate around March 15.
"We just need to stay healthy," Posada said. "Whatever is going to be best for Alex, we understand. We'll go from there. You try to play through the injury, but then also, you don't want to hurt the team."
Rivera threw off a bullpen mound for the first time Thursday, while Matsui made his spring training debut as the designated hitter in the Yankees' 6-0 loss to Canada.
When Rodriguez is able to resume spring training workouts, there will be restrictions.
"I think there's plenty of things that we can do, DHing, and maybe not playing the whole game at any point," Girardi said. "Maybe not asking him to play too many days in a row. Just monitoring his condition every day. I think you be able to tell."
Easily baseball's highest-paid player with a $32 million salary this season, Rodriguez had been looking forward to the April 16 opener at the $1.5 billion new Yankee Stadium.
"It's worrisome thinking about your club without Alex," Girardi said. "Alex hasn't had any pain. Shocked. I think that's a pretty good way to describe it."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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