CHICAGO -- After he just went through "the worst time of my life," nothing could make Alex Rodriguez happier than playing the rest of the season for the Yankees.
And that's what Rodriguez could do as he appeals his suspension through the 2014 season for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Sidelined since hip surgery in January, Rodriguez rejoined the Yankees Monday five hours after the suspension in a series opener at the Chicago White Sox and played in his first major-league game this year.
Booed loudly each time he walked to the plate, Rodriguez went 1 for 4 in New York's 8-1 loss. He blooped a single to left field in the second inning, flied out in the fourth and sixth, then struck out in the eighth. He acknowledged he felt rusty in the field, though he made all his plays.
"It was fun to go out there and play the game again," Rodriguez said. "I love the fans here."
Since arbitrator Fredric Horowitz isn't expected to rule until November or December at the earliest, Rodriguez could be free to play the rest of this season.
Once the greatest player of his time, Rodriguez was reduced Monday night to saying that he was humbled, at 38, just to "have the opportunity to put on this uniform again" and adding if he didn't fight for his career, no one else would.
"The last seven months has been a nightmare ... probably the worst time of my life, for sure," Rodriguez said.
Actually, Rodriguez' nightmare goes back 10 months to his horrible performance in the 2011 playoffs. Then a winter of speculation about possible PED use, followed by hip surgery. Then baseball dropped the hammer on Rodriguez Monday in the form of a 211-game suspension.
Rodriguez wouldn't deny using PEDs on Monday, saying "when the time is right, there will be an opportunity to do all of that. I don't think that time is right now."
He added: "It's been the toughest fight of my life. By any means, am I out of the woods? This is probably just phase two just starting. It's not going to get easier. It's probably going to get harder."
Baseball handed out 50-game suspensions Monday to 12 other players - including All-Stars Nelson Cruz,Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera - in the most sweeping punishment since the Black Sox scandal nearly a century ago. They have already agreed to their penalties and would be eligible to return for the playoffs.
After Rodriguez intimated Friday that the Yankees did not want him to return so they wouldn't have to pay the remaining $94 million on his contract, the team responded Monday with a prepared statement:
"We are compelled to address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees' role in this matter," the team said. "The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was ready to welcome A-Rod back. "I'm not here to judge people. It's not my job," Girardi said. "He's a player as long as he's in our clubhouse."
Girardi called the suspensions "another black eye for us, but we're trying to clean this game up."
Rodriguez, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball's highest-paid star, is making $28 million this year, and his salary drops to $25 million next year and $21 million in 2015. If the 211-game penalty is upheld, his lost pay could range from $30.6 million to $32.7 million, depending on when the suspension is served.
Last week, it was reported that baseball would ban Rodriguez for life if he didn't accept his penalty without appeal.
Baseball's drug agreement says the appeal hearing shall start no later than 20 days after the filing of the grievance and the arbitrator is charged with making a decision 25 days after the hearing starts. However, the schedule can be altered by agreement of management and the union.
Monday's suspensions are thought to be the most at once for off-the-field conduct since 1921, when Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned eight Chicago White Sox players - including the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson - for throwing the 1919 World Series against the Reds.
The last time baseball gave a lifetime ban to one of its greats was in 1989 when it banned Pete Rose after its investigation found that Rose had bet on games while managing the Reds. Rose denied it at the time but admitted it in a book in 2004.
Rodriguez admitted four years ago that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas from 2001-03 but has repeatedly denied using them since.
Rodriguez was suspended under both the drug agreement and labor contract.
MLB said the drug penalty was for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years."
His penalty under the labor contract was "for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner's investigation."
Cruz, an outfielder, leads Texas in RBIs and Peralta has been a top hitter and slick-fielding shortstop for Detroit, a pair of teams in the midst of pennant races.
Others agreeing included Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and outfielder Fernando Martinez; Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo; Seattle catcher Jesus Montero; New York Mets infielder Jordany Valdespin and outfielder Cesar Puello; Houston pitcher Sergio Escalona; and free agent pitchers Fautino De Los Santos and Jordan Norberto.
Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension last month and previous punishments bring to 18 the total number of players disciplined for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs.
MLB's investigation began last year after San Francisco outfielder and All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera tested positive for elevated testosterone, as did Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon and San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal. The probe escalated in January when the Miami New Times published documents obtained from former Biogenesis associate Porter Fisher that linked several players to Biogenesis.
MLB said Melky Cabrera, Colon and Grandal will not receive additional discipline and it found no violations for Washington pitcher Gio Gonzalez and Baltimore infielder Danny Valencia, both linked to Biogenesis in media reports.
In June, baseball struck a deal for Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch to cooperate. After holding investigatory interviews with the players, MLB presented evidence to the players' union along with its intended penalties, starting the final round of negotiations.
"Those players who have violated the program have created scrutiny for the vast majority of our players, who play the game the right way," baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We continue to attack this issue on every front — from science and research, to education and awareness, to fact-finding and investigative skills."
While the players' association has fought many drug penalties over the past three decades, attitudes of its membership have shifted sharply in recent years and union staff encouraged settlements in the Biogenesis probe.
"The accepted suspensions announced today are consistent with the punishments set forth in the Joint Drug Agreement, and were arrived at only after hours of intense negotiations between the bargaining parties, the players and their representatives," union head Michael Weiner said. "For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately ... The union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously."
Fighting a brain tumor diagnosed a year ago, Weiner spoke in a raspy voice during a conference call and said the union's executive board will consider stiffer drug penalties when players meet in December.
But the union will fight Rodriguez's discipline.
"We've never had a 200-plus (game) penalty for a player who may have used drugs," he said. "And among other things, I just think that's way out of line."
Players have often succeeded at persuading arbitrators to overturn or shorten drug suspensions. In the era before the drug agreement, LaMarr Hoyt, Ferguson Jenkins, Pascual Perez and Willie Wilson were among those who had success in hearings, and Steve Howe's lifetime ban for a seventh suspension related to drugs or alcohol was cut to 119 days.
Weiner said a settlement prior to Horowitz's decision is possible but not likely. David Cornwell, an attorney for one of Rodriguez's three law firms, called the penalty an "unprecedented action."
"Major League Baseball has gone well beyond the authority granted to its Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement," he said, using the labor deal's formal name. "Consequently, we will appeal the discipline and pursue all legal remedies available to Alex."
Rodriguez's suspension will almost certainly dampen his future chances for election to the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire all compiled big numbers, too, but voters blocked them from Cooperstown because of the drug cloud.
Picked first in the 1993 amateur draft, Rodriguez reached the majors at age 18 with Seattle and was an All-Star by 20. He seemed destined to become one of the greatest players in the history of the game, and appeared in line to break the all-time home run record — he ranks fifth with 647.
Yet for all his accomplishments, Rodriguez has been reviled by fans as much as celebrated, especially later in his career. His off-field antics, enormous paycheck and playoff failures have often overshadowed his feats at the plate.
Though they lose part of their salaries, the stats and awards are safe for baseball players penalized in drug cases. Nothing is stripped from any record book or trophy case.
That's not always the case in other sports.
Doping cost Lance Armstrong his seven Tour de France cycling titles and stripped away Olympic gold medals from sprinters Ben Johnson and Marion Jones.
Cruz attributed his action to a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, and said he had lost 40 pounds following the 2011 season.
"I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error," he said in a statement. "I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse."
Peralta can rejoin Detroit for a season-ending three-game series at Miami — not far from the former office of Biogenesis.
In a statement released by the Tigers, Peralta said in "spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret." Peralta apologized to his teammates and "the great fans in Detroit," saying he knows he let "many good people down."
During an era when cocaine was a problem in baseball, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth conditionally suspended 11 players implicated in drug use in 1986, a group that included Reds star Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez and Joaquin Andujar. But Ueberroth said at the time he announced the penalties that the players wouldn't have to serve the bans if they donated a percentage of their salaries to drug-prevention programs, submitted to random drug testing and contributed time to drug-related community service.
Others Suspended For PEDs
Other players suspended before Monday for violations of the Major League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program since it was established in 2005 (x-tested positive while on 40-man roster):
July 29 -- Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee, 65 games (remainder of season), violations of drug agreement and collective bargaining agreement.
Nov. 27 -- Carlos Ruiz, C, Philadelphia, 25 games, amphetamine.
Nov. 7 -- Yasmani Grandal, C, San Diego, 50 games, testosterone.
Nov. 2 -- Ryan Adams, SS, Baltimore, 25 games, amphetamine.
Aug. 22 -- Bartolo Colon, RHP, Oakland, 50 games, testosterone.
Aug. 15 -- Melky Cabrera, OF, San Francisco, 50 games, testosterone.
June 25 -- Marlon Byrd, OF, free agent, 50 games, Tamoxifen.
June 19 -- Freddy Galvis, INF, Philadelphia, 50 games, Clostebol metabolite.
May 7 -- Guillermo Mota, RHP, San Francisco, 100 games, Clenbuterol.
Dec. 4 -- Manny Ramirez, OF, free agent, 50 games, violation.
Aug. 19 -- Mark Rogers, P, Milwaukee, stimulant.
Ramirez announcement of pending issue made on April 8 while with Tampa Bay, when he opted to retire. On Dec. 4, Ramirez applied for reinstatement from voluntary retired list. MLB and the MLBPA agreed that he would serve a 50-game suspension for his violation upon his reinstatement after signing with a new club.
Aug. 20 -- Ronny Paulino, C, Florida, 50 games, performance.
April 20 -- Edinson Volquez, P, Cincinnati, 50 games, performance.
May 7 -- Manny Ramirez, OF, L.A. Dodgers, 50 games, banned substance.
March 23 -- x-Kelvin Pichardo, P, San Francisco, 50 games, performance.
Jan. 6 -- x-Sergio Mitre, P, N.Y. Yankees, 50 games, performance.
Jan. 6 -- J.C. Romero, P, Philadelphia, 50 games, performance.
Nov. 11 -- x-Henry Owens, P, Florida, 50 games, performance.
May 28 -- x-Humberto Cota, C, Colorado, 50 games, performance.
April 30 -- x-Eliezer Alfonzo, C, San Francisco, 50 games, performance.
Dec. 6 -- Jay Gibbons, OF, Baltimore, 15 days, performance.
Dec. 6 -- Jose Guillen, OF, Kansas City, 15 days, performance.
Nov. 27 -- Dan Serafini, P, free agent, 50 games, performance.
Oct. 31 -- Mike Cameron, OF, free agent, 25 games, stimulant.
Sept. 7 -- Ryan Jorgensen, C, Cincinnati, 50 games, violation.
Aug. 3 -- Neifi Perez, INF, Detroit, 80 games, stimulant.
July 6 -- Neifi Perez, INF, Detroit, 25 games, stimulant.
May 7 -- Juan Salas, P, Tampa Bay, 50 games, performance.
Nov. 1 -- Guillermo Mota, P, free agent, 50 games, performance.
June 12 -- Jason Grimsley, P, Arizona, 50 games, performance.
April 28 -- x-Yusaku Iriki, P, N.Y. Mets, 50 games, performance.
Nov. 2 -- Matt Lawton, OF, free agent, 10 days, performance.
Oct. 18 -- Felix Heredia, P, N.Y. Mets, 10 days, performance.
Oct. 4 -- Carlos Almanzar, P, Texas, 10 days, performance.
Sept. 7 -- Mike Morse, INF-OF, Seattle, 10 days, performance.
Aug. 2 -- Ryan Franklin, P, Seattle, 10 days, performance.
Aug. 1 -- Rafael Palmeiro, INF, Baltimore, 10 days, performance.
July 8 -- Rafael Betancourt, P, Cleveland, 10 days, performance.
May 2 -- Juan Rincon, P, Minnesota, 10 days, unavailable.
April 26 -- Jamal Strong, OF, Seattle, 10 days, performance.
April 20 -- Agustin Montero, P, Texas, 10 days, unavailable.
April 11 -- Jorge Piedra, OF, Colorado, 10 days, unavailable.
April 3 -- Alex Sanchez, OF, Tampa Bay, 10 days, performance.
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