As Alex Rodriguez’s suspension saga unfolds, the New York Yankees insist it’s business as usual for them.
They hope their embattled slugger can give their fading playoff hopes a boost. They insist he’s welcome in their clubhouse. And closer Mariano Rivera expressed some sympathy for A-Rod.
”Alex is my friend and it’s definitely hard when you see all this stuff and when you see fans booing a player because I’m a player,” he said. ”It’s just hard. It is what it is, but at the same time he’s a human being. To see the way they boo him it’s hard to take and to see.”
Rodriguez was the designated hitter in his second game back for the New York Yankees in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss. He walked in his first plate appearance and was hit by a pitch in his second time up, drawing cheers from the crowd. He also had a single.
Manager Joe Girardi said Rodriguez was feeling fine, but he decided not to play him at third base against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
”I thought with kind of a long game (Monday), I chose to DH him today,” Girardi said. ”Probably put him back at third base (Wednesday). I didn’t even ask him and he said he felt good today. I didn’t even ask him, I just thought it was a good idea today.”
The three-time AL MVP was given a 211-game suspension from Thursday through the 2014 season by Major League Baseball for violations of its drug agreement and labor contract. Hours after Monday’s announcement, A-Rod started at third base and went 1 for 4 in his first appearance of the season after hip surgery in January.
He was showered with boos and ”Steroids! Steroids!” chants in that game.
Rodriguez said he will appeal the suspension, which will be stayed until a decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, likely in the offseason.
Union head Michael Weiner maintains 211 games was excessive discipline and said Tuesday on SiriusXM Radio that he advised Rodriguez to settle if Major League Baseball offered a shorter penalty.
”I don’t want to give a number, but there was a number that I gave A-Rod and we advised him to take it. He was never given that number,” Weiner said. ”Based on the evidence that we saw we made a recommendation. The commissioner’s office didn’t meet it. They were much higher. And therefore, we’re at a hearing.”
Rodriguez declined comment on that after the game, saying, ”I’m not talking about that case any longer.”
Weiner said the union, at the behest of Rodriguez’s lawyers, had requested a meeting with MLB on Saturday but after talking to management the sides decided not to get together.
On the field, the Yankees are hoping Rodriguez can give them the production they’ve been lacking at third and boost their postseason chances. They entered Tuesday’s game 9 1/2 games back in the AL East.
”It’s been a difficult year,” general manager Brian Cashman said. ”I’ve been around a long time, I’ve been doing this a long time but certainly have been a lot of extra stuff that you’re not used to dealing with, not just the Alex stuff. I’m talking about the amount of injuries we’ve had.”
Cashman said he’s operating under the assumption that the Yankees will have Rodriguez the rest of the season, although ”no one’s told me either way.”
Girardi said Rodriguez will probably play third on Wednesday and that he would like to use him more in the field than at DH.
Girardi also said catcher Francisco Cervelli, who was suspended 50 games on Monday, had surgery to remove hardware from his right hand.
Right-hander David Phelps will likely be out a few more weeks after sustaining a different strain in his pitching forearm than the one that landed him on the disabled list last month. And right-hander Michael Michael Pineda will be shut down for a week to 10 days after he left his start with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday because of shoulder stiffness.
As for Rodriguez, the Yankees insist they’re not bothered by the circus-like atmosphere surrounding his return. After all, they’re used to the spotlight.
”This is the New York Yankees; we wouldn’t expect anything different,” Curtis Granderson said. ”Obviously, there was a little story there. But I don’t see it being the last story. Once you get yourself into the postseason … the cameras come rolling back in.”