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Third baseman added to Yankees' list of needs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The breaking news of Alex Rodriguez's left hip injury created a ripple effect of headlines on the first day of the Winter Meetings, but it didn't exactly catch the Yankees off guard.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the team was aware of the developing issue with A-Rod's hip back in mid-November, as the slugger was in the process of having second opinions offered concerning his condition.

"First and foremost, I've been aware of this situation for quite some time," Cashman said. "Thankfully, until last night, no one specifically asked me about Alex and his hip."

Indeed, there had been questions lobbed at Cashman regarding Rodriguez from the moment of the final out of the American League Championship Series, with suggestions that Rodriguez could be traded this winter or relegated to full-time designated hitter duty.

It would have been impossible to surmise that Rodriguez's poor postseason showing was impacted by a torn labrum, bone impingement and a cyst in his left hip, but that is the situation the Yankees now must deal with -- potentially knocking Rodriguez out of action until June or July.

"I know it's news to everyone here, but you guys are catching up to speed on stuff we've already been aware of," Cashman said. "It's not like we were caught off guard and are having to adjust accordingly. We've been aware of this for a period of time."

So an interim third baseman can now officially be placed on the Yankees' shopping list, added to the search for a catcher to replace Russell Martin and a right fielder to take over for Nick Swisher, who is expected to depart via free agency.

Even though the Yankees had the advantage of several weeks during which they -- and seemingly no one else -- had solid information about Rodriguez's situation, Cashman said that the Yankees weren't able to get close to finding any answers on the third base front.

"To tell you the truth, our full focus has been on the pitching," Cashman said. "That's what we've been dealing with, and now we're focusing on the offensive side. We've stayed in touch with everybody, but normally, to take a guy off the board early, you have to substantially overpay, and we're not in that business as much as we used to be."

The market for third basemen has some interesting options for the Yankees to check on. They've learned that Eric Chavez is interested in continuing to play in 2013, but he seems better suited for a reserve role, as he cannot be counted on for regular duty.

Free agent Stephen Drew, once a promising shortstop, had been reported to be on the Yankees' radar this winter, though he hasn't played third base in his big league career. Other options, like Marco Scutaro and Jeff Keppinger, will draw attention, and perhaps Kevin Youkilis could even be entertained at the right price.

But the Yankees expect A-Rod back at some point in 2013, so they'll prefer short-term solutions.

For the moment, the Yankees say that they aren't looking at Eduardo Nunez as an option to step in for Rodriguez. Jayson Nix would appear to be the leading in-house candidate, with prospects David Adams and Ronnier Mustelier behind him.

"Right now, with what I have, the job is to look for better [players]," Cashman said. "There's no doubt about that. We're also prepared to go with what we have, if that's what's mandated by how the circumstances play out.

"If people want to try to take advantage of the circumstance and have us pay twice the price, then we're not going to do anything there. We'll just deal with what we've got and wait it out."

At least the Yankees heard some good news on Monday about Derek Jeter (whom Cashman insisted is not an option to move to third base in Rodriguez's absence). Appearing on ESPN Radio in New York, Jeter told host Michael Kay that he plans to play shortstop on Opening Day.

"I'll be in the walking boot for another few weeks, and then I'll be good to go," said Jeter, who fractured his left ankle during Game 1 of the ALCS. "It's been a long process. What's it been, six or seven weeks, where I haven't been able to move too much? But it's healing probably just as expected. We've still got a long way to go before the season starts, but I'll be ready."

The Yankees also absorbed a slight blow on Monday, as the Blue Jays claimed catcher Eli Whiteside -- obtained by the Yankees from the Giants last month -- on waivers, reducing the options to replace Martin by one.

The Yankees still have Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine to consider among their internal candidates to step in for Martin, who signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Pirates last week.

Cashman said that there is no doubt that his winter has been made more difficult by Rodriguez's injury, but he expressed confidence that the Yankees will handle the problem.

"That's part of the job," Cashman said. "It's just another challenge or responsibility. It's no complaint. It's just, we have to deal with it. We will. How we deal with it overall remains to be seen."

New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez