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04/15/09 6:21 AM ET

Doctor: A-Rod ahead of schedule

Rodriguez may return before May 15 target date

The orthopedic surgeon who performed the operation on Alex Rodriguez's right hip says the Yankees third baseman's rehabilitation is ahead of schedule and he might return sooner than the May 15 target date.

Dr. Mark Philippon confirmed in an interview with The New York Times what Rodriguez said Monday -- that he might avoid a second surgery -- and added that the process is going along better than expected. Now monitoring his progress from afar in Vail, Colo., while Rodriguez ramps up his baseball activities in Tampa, Philippon said all reports are excellent.

"We don't want to rush too much," Philippon told the Times, "but according to Alex, his coordination, his motions, his muscle memory is coming back really fast. He told me yesterday that he felt better than he felt earlier at Spring Training, when he got started. We're five weeks out, and I think it's on schedule -- actually, slightly ahead of schedule."

Philippon said there will be inherent risks once Rodriguez begins playing baseball again, particularly with sliding or with contact at home plate.

"But truly, once it's healed, I don't see it as a problem," Philippon said.

Philippon likened the prospects for recovery to that of golfer Greg Norman, who underwent a similar operation in 2000 and last year, at age 53, made a run at the British Open title. Rodriguez, 33, is in the second year of a 10-year contract.

"I don't see that there are any obstacles to him completing the length of his contract," Philippon said of Rodriguez.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.