PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Alex Rodriguez said all he was trying to do was compliment his friend, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, and the Yankees, when he did an interview with "Esquire" magazine last fall.
In the April issue of the magazine, which hit newsstands Friday, Rodriguez is quoted as saying about Jeter: "He's never had to lead. He can just go play and have fun. He hits second, and that's totally different than third or fourth in a lineup.
"When you go into New York you want to stop Bernie (Williams) and Paul (O'Neill). You never say, 'Don't let Derek beat us.' He's never your concern."
While that sounds as if Rodriguez is being critical, Rodriguez said Friday the quote was taken out of context. He is a close friend of Jeter's, he pointed out, and one of Jeter's biggest supporters.
"That is a little bit out of context, and I said that (Jeter's) situation is what I had in Seattle early in my career, and I was very fortunate for that and that's what I am in right now. Our positions mirror each other right now," Rodriguez said. "When you come into Texas now you don't say, 'I'm going to stop Ivan (Rodriguez), Rafael (Palmeiro) or Alex.' You say, 'I'm going to stop one through nine. That's same as with New York. That's a compliment to the Yankees; it's not meant as a slap at Derek.
"If you want to talk baseball and people want to take things so literal, I can't be any more positive about Derek."
Told about the quotes in the article, Jeter said Friday at the Yankees' camp he would call Rodriguez and have a statement today.
"The only thing you can ask him is what his intentions were. Do I think his intentions were bad? No."
Rodriguez said he looked forward to talking with his friend to clear the air.
"I'm going to tell him I'll put a gag order on myself and say, 'He's the best player in the game and no more comments,' " Rodriguez said. "It's safer that way. It's too bad, really. I love Derek, and I think he's one of the top three players in the game."
"I don't blame anybody but myself; I should have said, 'When you go into New York, you need to stop Derek, Bernie ...' like that.'
"How can I dog Derek Jeter? It's impossible. ... It's my mistake because I said it. It's not the journalist's fault. It's my fault for just talking the game and being too general. I guess I should be more specific."
Jeter should be thanking Rodriguez for something. When Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Rangers in December, the largest in sports history, Jeter's value increased. Jeter ended up with a 10-year, $189 contract.