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Watching, waiting

At old stomping grounds, Rodriguez keeps open mind

MIAMI -- By her reckoning, Cynthia Rodriguez estimates that between her grandmother and grandfather on her mother's side, she must have 200 cousins who were left in Lowell after her grandfather, Demosthenes Makras, left to start the first Greek Orthodox congregation in Miami, St. Sophia's Cathedral.

 

And there hasn't been a day lately when her mother hasn't heard from the Lowell branch of the family, wondering: Will Alex Rodriguez be traded to the Boston Red Sox?

"My mother gets calls all day long -- `Give us the scoop,' " Cynthia Scurtis Rodriguez said here last night. "She goes, `When I have the scoop, I'll give you the scoop. You'll probably find out before I do.' "

Last night, while awaiting word on his future, Alex Rodriguez -- immaculately dressed in a taupe suit and blue-and-white checked shirt -- was back at his roots, Westminster Christian Academy, hosting a charity basketball tournament bearing his name, the A-Rod Classic. It was here that Rodriguez was drafted No. 1 overall in the country by the Seattle Mariners in 1994, and only a few short months later was making his big-league debut in Fenway Park.

Would he soon be going back to the Fens, this time in the home whites instead of as a visitor? Rodriguez professed to know as little about the progress of the talks between Red Sox owner John W. Henry and Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks as his wife's cousins.

"I've got an open mind," he said. "We're still here. We haven't really heard much. Like I said before, there has been a lot of smoke, but I don't know how much is happening.

"I don't know how much they're talking, how far it's gone. I'm like everyone else. I'm like a spectator right now, just waiting, keeping an open mind, and mainly staying distracted by what I've got going on here."

He was surrounded by familiar faces. The Westminster basketball coach, Octavio De La Grana, who had been his seventh-grade health teacher and physical education instructor. His older brother, Joe, whose 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, glided swiftly into her uncle's waiting arms. His cousin from the Bronx, Eddie Gutierrez, who runs a sports cafe and showed up wearing a Yankees sweat shirt, which met with the laughing disapproval of A-Rod and was soon replaced. The Westminster athletic director, Scott Doan, who had helped organize this tournament to benefit the A-Rod Foundation, designed to help kids in distress. Eddie Rodriguez, the surrogate father who took A-Rod under his wing in the Boys' Club when he was just 8 years old. Other teachers, friends, and relatives, all getting a hug, a handshake, a smile.

In that crowd, it was hard to find anyone who wasn't hoping A-Rod would wind up with the Red Sox.

"He's been like a little kid here the last couple of days, just so pumped up," said one member of the athletic department. "Every time his phone rings, he's like, `Maybe this is it.' "

That word did not come last night, at least not while Rodriguez was in the gym. But he was not ruling out the possibility that the Sox and Rangers would strike a deal that would send him to Boston in what would be the first trade ever of a reigning Most Valuable Player.

Rodriguez, who with his wife recently dined with Henry, acknowledged he has had discussions this week with the players' union, which would have to sign off on any restructuring he and the Red Sox might want to do on the remainder of his 10-year, $252 million contract, of which there is $179 million still to be doled out. But he did not offer specifics about those talks.

"We haven't really gone that far," he said of a possible restructuring, "because nothing's been brought to us. It's been a very passive approach on everyone's side, I think.

"Before we even go down that avenue -- and I talk with [union lawyer] Gene Orza on a regular basis -- right now we're sitting back, staying patient, and keeping an open mind. That's about it. We really can't get into anything until they really talk to us. I think a lot of people are expecting things to happen, but I'm just like everyone else.

"I'm waiting."

Rodriguez said he could not predict when the teams would either consummate a deal or abandon the proposed swap that would send Manny Ramirez to the Rangers and bring A-Rod to Boston, which would then trigger Nomar Garciaparra's trade to a third team, the most likely candidate being the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I do want it to be resolved, just for the peace of mind," Cynthia Rodriguez said, "but either way, Alex is going about his business the way he always does. He's been levelheaded, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I'd like there to be a resolution so I know where we'll be.

"There was a point where things looked like they were moving pretty fast, but, at the moment, I really have no idea. If I was betting, I'd say we probably end up in Texas. But this is really in the owners' hands. It's not in our attorney's hands, it's not in our hands. At the end of the day, we're really out of the loop. It sounds odd, but it's true."

Alex Rodriguez is far too sophisticated to tip his hand publicly to what his preference would be, though numerous people close to him have said he'd love to come to Boston after three straight last-place finishes in Texas. But he did offer his perspective on playing in Fenway Park, and the city.

"Fenway is just a phenomenal place to play. I know Fenway Park as a visitor, and it's just a fun place for a visitor. Great fans, great ambience. And the town, it's just great, a great baseball town. I never realized how incredibly passionate they are about the Red Sox. There are a lot of Red Sox fans in Florida, too. They're everywhere."

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