A-Rod welcomed back by Yanks in season debut
Appealing lengthy suspension, third baseman singles in first at-bat
CHICAGO -- On the day he was suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez returned from the disabled list Monday and resumed his usual duties as the Yankees' third baseman and cleanup hitter.
Rodriguez was suspended Monday through the remainder of the 2013 season, beginning Thursday, and all of the 2014 season for violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Basic Agreement.
Rodriguez will appeal the suspension and can play with the Yankees until the appeals process runs its course and a decision is made. The case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, who could uphold, overturn or shorten MLB's punishment. There was speculation that might not happen until November or December, according to Major League Baseball Players Association executive vice president Michael Weiner.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi immediately placed Rodriguez in the heart of the order against the White Sox. Rodriguez blooped a single to left field in his first at-bat and finished 1-for-4.
"I felt OK, for the first game," Rodriguez said. "It was hard today, that's for sure. Long day. I felt pretty good. From this moment on I want to focus on baseball like it's do or die. Every game's very important for us."
Vernon Wells said he was happy to have the 14-time All-Star and three-time American League Most Valuable Player back in the lineup.
"Definitely," Wells said before the game. "If Alex is healthy, which he seems to be, he's going to help this team a lot. You throw him right in the cleanup spot and let him play third base and let him go out and play the game he loves to play."
Left-hander Andy Pettitte, who started and took the loss, agreed.
"It's good to have him back, obviously. You know, like I said before Al is our teammate. And, you know, I've built up a friendship with him over the years I've been here," Pettitte said. "We've spent a lot of time together, obviously, playing this game together. And I want nothing but the best for Al and his family. So I'm glad to see him back. He's going to help this club. He's a great ballplayer. He's into the game and, you know, he'll definitely help us."
That was the manager's feeling as well.
"I think guys were happy to see him," Girardi said. "He's a teammate of ours. He's a friend of ours."
Captain Derek Jeter also was happy to have Rodriguez back, but was saddened to talk about PED-related suspensions.
"You feel bad. I'd much rather not be sitting here talking about suspensions. I'd rather be sitting here talking about baseball," Jeter said. "Unfortunately, we're not. Any time we talk about something like this, it's negative. I wish it didn't happen, but it did and now you move on."
MLB on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utilityman Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
Rodriguez was the only player to appeal.
Lyle Overbay said he's in favor of stiffer penalties for players who take performance-enhancing drugs. Based on the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Basic Agreement, a player is suspended 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second and receives a lifetime ban for a third.
Overbay said a 50-game punishment for a first offense "obviously isn't stiff enough" and, because of that layout, outfielder Curtis Granderson was a bit perplexed on the length of Rodriguez's suspension.
"I've always had the take that I've seen what's been labeled out there and all the other things are kind of subjective to whoever's handing out the penalties, so whatever their reason is for doing it, it'll be interesting to finally, hopefully being able to understand that," Granderson said. "In terms of language, it's not in there. I only know what's there for me and that's for the amphetamine testing and also the PED testing. And it's clear cut, the first violation, second violation and so on.
"So for these particular disciplinary actions, it is interesting the amount of time that is put forth because of whatever their reason is. Only the people issuing know that up to this point."
On what many deemed a sad day for baseball, Overbay said he views players differently after finding out they test positive for PEDs. But when asked about how he feels being in the same clubhouse as Rodriguez, Overbay said it didn't affect his view on Rodriguez as a teammate.
"No. I mean, we've all made mistakes. He's made a mistake and he's a teammate and we're going to go out there," said Overbay, who signed with the Yankees in March. "I don't know him enough. I haven't been around here and he hasn't been around. He's been rehabbing and doing all that, but just knowing him as a teammate and as a player ... That's what's frustrating, is he's so good, he doesn't need to do this stuff. That's frustrating for me."
Outfielder Alfonso Soriano felt the same when asked if he was surprised players still take PEDs.
"We like to compete, you know. But compete clean. It's part of the game, so just compete clean and see what happens," Soriano said. "A lot of guys, they have too much talent and they don't know. So I think they [don't] need [PEDs] and they don't have to try to do something wrong because God gave you the talent, so don't try to be a super hero or something like that. Just play with the talent that God gave to you and see what happens."
What happened, at least on Monday, was Rodriguez returning to the lineup.
"He's here in this uniform now and that's all that matters at this point," Wells said.