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A-Rod Clarifies Jeter Talk

The friendship between Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter looks more like a feud these days.

"He's never had to lead," Rodriguez was quoted as saying in April's edition of Esquire. "He can just go and play and have fun. He hits second - that's totally different than third or fourth in a lineup.

"You go into New York, you wanna stop Bernie (Williams) and (Paul) O'Neill. You never say, `Don't let Derek beat us.' He's never your concern," he said.

Told about the remarks, Jeter said he had a phone call to make.

"I'll ask him tonight, and I'll talk to you tomorrow," the New York Yankees' shortstop said Friday. "The only thing you can ask him is what his intentions were. Do I think his intentions were bad? No."

Later in the day, Rodriguez said he looked forward to telling Jeter he meant nothing negative. The Texas shortstop insisted his comments were taken out of context from a 90-minute interview last December.

"How can I ever dog Derek Jeter? It's impossible," Rodriguez said. "There is nothing to knock. He's a great defensive player. He's a great offensive player. He's one of the top three players in the game, for the greatest team of my era.

"It's my mistake because I said it. It's not the journalist's fault," he said. "It's been my fault for just talking the game and being too general. I guess you have to be very specific."

While the All-Star have been friends for several years, this marked the second time in a few months that A-Rod has mentioned Jeter in what appeared to be an unfavorable fashion.

Soon after he signed a $252 million, 10-year contract with Texas that is the largest in sports history, Rodriguez said the salary figure would be hard to top.

"Even a guy like Derek, it's going to be hard for him to break that because he just doesn't do the power numbers and defensively he doesn't do all those things," A-Rod said in December.

Jeter, who already has won four World Series championship rings at age 26, recently got a $189 million, 10-year contract from the Yankees, the second-largest deal in sports history.

Rodriguez said he was trying to compare his situation to Jeter's.

"So when you say you don't go into New York trying to stop Derek, to me that's more of a team compliment," he said.

"When you come to Texas now, you don't say you have to stop Ivan (Rodriguez), Alex or Raffy (Rafael Palmeiro). You say, let's stop one through nine because everybody can hurt you."

Rodriguez left Seattle as a free agent after the Yankees beat the Mariners in last year's AL championship series.

"It's great because our situations mirror each other. All we have to do is go out and play. I don't have to worry about leading Ivan, (Andres) Galarraga or (Ken) Caminiti or Raffy. Those guys all lead themselves. You lead by example, but it's not like leading in Seattle last year."

Jeter's teammates have no doubts about his leadership role. The Yankees have won four of five World Series since Jeter joined the team, including three in a row.

Jeter was the MVP of last year's World Series win over the New York Mets and last summer's All-Star game. He's a career .342 hitter in the Series.

"He's one of our leaders in the clubhouse. There's no doubt about it," center fielder Bernie Williams said. "He's definitely one of those guys, in a clutch situation, that would do something."

Said reliever Mike Stanton: "We really don't know what the context of the conversation was. They're pretty strong words."

"There's intangibles there that make Jeter an MVP. I don't think there's any doubt that he's one of the hearts and souls of this team," he said.

And what about A-Rod's remark that teams don't focus on stopping Jeter?

"Yeah, the Mets probably weren't worried about him, either," Stanton said

Jeter, who has slowed by right shoulder stiffness, hasn't thrown or taken batting practice since Tuesday.

"I'm doing groundballs and stuff like that," he said. "It's hard sitting around. This is the time you want to be playing. I don't like to sit around and watch."

Yankees manager Joe Torre said there was no rush to get Jeter in the lineup.

"As long as we're getting progress here, we might as well not feel it at all," he said.

Rodriguez is to play his first game for the Rangers on Saturday in their exhibition opener against Boston in Fort Myers. Rodriguez is slated to bat third, behind Ivan Rodriguez and ahead of Palmeiro.

"I'm excited. That's one of the key points," he said. "I don't think it will hit home until maybe tomorrow, and definitely opening day at home will be special."

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