It’s only a matter of days before the surge in human traffic begins at Steinbrenner Field, and with it the issues that’ll define the Yankees’ season. Pitchers and catchers is shorthand for a closer look at Mariano Rivera’s knee and CC Sabathia’s elbow, and the vigil over Derek Jeter’s ankle begins in earnest Monday when the Yankees raise the curtain on their first full-squad workout.

Robinson Cano, in lock step with agent Scott Boras, is prepping for free agency. Andy Pettitte will try to stay off the disabled list for an entire season as he approaches his 41st birthday. Even Joe Girardi faces an uncertain future, entering the final year of his contract. The agenda is standing-room only, and we haven’t even mentioned Alex Rodriguez and the performance-enhancing drugs cloud that’ll hover over him like a guillotine for the rest of his career.

The Yankees announced Tuesday that A-Rod will be absent for the foreseeable future — in New York instead of Tampa, rehabbing from hip surgery under the auspices of medical specialists instead of the team’s own physical therapists.

Officials insist this was a prearranged separation, unrelated to the scandal that’s currently engulfed the slugger. Fair enough: Rodriguez completed his entire rehab in Colorado after the 2009 surgery on his other hip, so it’s reasonable to assume he needs the same medical attention now.

But that’s not to say the Yankees will miss Rodriguez. To the contrary, they’ll welcome the idea of not having to answer daily questions about his transgressions. That’s no small perk for a team that’s already being criticized for its failure to upgrade the roster this winter.

The company line, of course, says otherwise — that this is the same core that won an AL-best 95 games last year, and that was without Rivera for the final five months of the regular season. Without Pettitte for two months. Without Sabathia from late June-early July, and without A-Rod for 36 games while he nursed a broken hand.

Everyone’s back is what the Yankees are selling, even if that’ s not entirely true. The opening day lineup will be missing 98 home runs without A-Rod, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin, which means Girardi will be hard-pressed to duplicate last year’s 804 runs, second in the league.