The idea of Alex Rodriguez not being expected to have a big impact on a team for a season is hard to fathom. But after his performance in the 2012 postseason and necessary surgery on his left hip, the expectations for Rodriguez in the 2013 season were slim to none.
Taking PED's out of the conversation, A-Rod has had one of the greatest careers in MLB history. But over the last few seasons, we have seen an aging player look like he is aging.
With the success that guys like Chipper Jones, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter have had at an older age, when we see a superstar player get older and their play actually starts to diminish like it should, we seem unprepared and don't accept it.
Injuries have plagued Rodriguez recently and after hitting 30 homers and driving in at least 100 RBI in 13 straight seasons, he has just 34 homers and 119 RBI in the last two seasons combined.
When will A-Rod return to the Yankees lineup?
When it was reported that Rodriguez would need hip surgery to repair a torn labrum, bone impingement and the correction of a cyst, his status for the 2013 season became a topic of discussion.
The recovery time was expected to be between four to six months after the surgery, but many felt this injury could possibly keep him out past the All-Star break, the entire season or even cause Rodriguez to retire. Even Brian Cashman said that the timetable for Rodriguez return would be sometime after the All-Star break.
So the Yankees and fans were probably not expecting Rodriguez to have much of an impact this season.
But it was reported this week that A-Rod was cleared to begin baseball activities and will report to Tampa to begin rehab there. This is a good sign for Rodriguez, as it appears he is on or possibly ahead of schedule.
There has never been any doubt about Rodriguez's passion or desire to succeed. He works as hard as anyone in the majors for his entire career, and that is a reason for why he has had so much success.
It should be no surprise that Rodriguez is working hard and motivated to get back on the field.
Rodriguez getting cleared to begin baseball activities also could mean that he could potentially make a bigger impact on the Yankees this season than originally expected.
While many doubted the Yankees would be able to generate any power in April with the depleted lineup they were throwing out there every night, the Yankees actually led all of the American League in homers.
But one thing that is becoming a problem is they are very lefty heavy. Guys like Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner, Brennan Boesch and Lyle Overbay have supplied the Yankees with most of their power and are all left-handed hitters.
Ben Francisco has been awful and now with Kevin Youkilis (A-Rod's temporary replacement) being injured, the Yankees are limited to Vernon Wells as any source of power from the right side.
The Yankees are going to need to find another right-handed power bat. That bat could come in Rodriguez.
There is no denying that Rodriguez, when healthy, has the ability to drive in runs and hit with power. While it might not be at the same level it was when he was hitting 50-plus homers and driving in 150 runs, it is still at an above-average level and probably better than anything the Yankees are going to be able to find outside the organization.
We have seen so many times in sports that athletes are able to recover from an injury and return earlier than expected. Add that to the drive and passion that Rodriguez has, and I believe that he will actually return sometime in June.
Rodriguez returned after having similar hip surgery in 2009 and hit .286, with 30 homers and 100 RBI in 124 games. His return to the lineup that season was a crucial turning point and made a huge impact that led the Yankees to winning the World Series.
With Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira expected to return soon, Rodriguez' return could be the icing on the cake that makes the Yankees the dominant team yet again.