Every time Alex Rodriguez's name was mentioned Friday, the New York Yankees general manager appeared as if he might get sick.
The subject was the third baseman's claim that his left quadriceps really isn't injured, but it could have been any one several topics: Rodriguez's alleged performance-enhancing drug use, his pesky Twitter and radio appearances or his knack for creating tabloid headlines.
Cashman challenged A-Rod to have his leg examined by an outside doctor or perhaps even file a grievance, defending the team's medical and training staff and saying he wouldn't comment on "extra noise."
The third baseman detailed his frustration during a radio interview Thursday, just hours after team management said he wouldn't be ready to resume minor league rehab games until Aug. 1. Rodriguez wouldn't answer when asked whether he trusted the Yankees.
"The MRI is the MRI. It's fact. You can't change the results on an MRI," Cashman said before Friday's 10-6 loss to Tampa Bay in a homestand opener. "So, we're very comfortable with it, and if anybody wants to utilize the process in place with the union, go right ahead. It's not something we're afraid of."
Recovering from January hip surgery, Rodriguez is under investigation by Major League Baseball for his reported ties to a Florida clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. A lengthy suspension appears likely.
Seemingly days away from rejoining the Yankees, he complained of leg pain last weekend, and the Yankees said an MRI on Sunday showed a quadriceps strain. An outside physician, Michael Gross, said Wednesday he looked at an MRI at Rodriguez's request -- it's not clear when the MRI was taken -- and could not detect an injury. Gross is not on baseball's list of doctors recommended for second opinions, and he admitted he never personally examined Rodriguez.
The Yankees responded angrily because Rodriguez didn't follow the procedure in baseball's labor contract, which requires him to provide written notice when a player wants a second medical opinion, and the team intends to discipline him -- most likely with a fine.
Rodriguez did conditioning work Friday at the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla., a day ahead of his 38th birthday, and Cashman said the three-time MVP is on a schedule that could have him resume minor league games Aug. 1.
As Rodriguez's car was departing, a fan held a light-colored, oversized card above his head and saw the side that read: "Happy Birthday!" and had a cartoon-like drawing of a clown. Rodriguez went by quickly and wasn't around by the time the fan opened the card to reveal the side read: "From One Clown to Another."
When or whether he returns to the Yankees has become a daily drama.
"I think we all kind of want it to get behind us, no matter what it is, and once something happens or doesn't happen, then we can kind of deal with it then," injured first baseman Mark Teixeira said.
Cashman's careful answers sounded more like those of a White House press secretary rather than responses of a big league GM.
"I'm not going to comment really on the Alex stuff. Feel free to just reach out to Alex and ask him, because that's something that's hard to keep up with and follow," Cashman said. "So I can just provide you the facts, and that's what I'll continue to do. We're running a baseball team, and I will provide you with the most accurate information that I can provide on a daily basis about anybody and everybody who's either healthy on that field or hurt and what the current state of their medical condition is and their rehab."
Cashman praised outfielder Alfonso Soriano, acquired Friday from the Chicago Cubs for minor league right-hander Corey Black. His accolades for Soriano's attributes could be interpreted by some as criticism of what Rodriguez is not.
"Over the years, we used to be attracted to all types of players and all types of personalities. If they could play, that's all the mattered," Cashman said. "I do think with the evolution social media and the explosion of the Internet and ESPN, everything, that having high-character guys that work hard and get along with everybody and obviously you have talent to boot, clearly is important."
Given his team's offensive struggles, manager Joe Girardi said he would be happy to have Rodriguez back as quickly as possible.
"People follow him around a lot. I never really had to deal with that," Girardi said. "When I was in rehab, no one came to watch. They didn't care if I teed or tossed or anything."
NOTES: CC Sabathia allowed six runs in the second inning and seven runs over five innings in all. He is 0-3 with a 7.04 ERA in his last four starts, dropping to 9-9 on the season. ... Soriano was 0 for 5 with an RBI grounder in a three-run ninth in his first game for the Yankees since 2003.
AP freelance writer Mark Didtler in Tampa contributed to this report.