Yankees pick A-Rod despite drug ban fears
The New York Yankees have pencilled Alex Rodriguez into their line-up for this morning's game against the Chicago White Sox despite unconfirmed reports that he could be suspended for his alleged links to the Florida clinic accused of supplying performance- enhancing drugs.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he planned to include Rodriguez in his team for the game in Chicago after the third baseman was passed fit to play following a long injury break.
"That's just a term. None of us use pencils or pens. We type," Girardi said. "I'm not going to bring him up to sit him."
Rodriguez's inclusion could depend on whether he is allowed to play, with Major League Baseball expected to announce its long-awaited findings into the Biogenesis doping investigation before the game in Chicago.
Up to a dozen players could be banned for 50 games, around eight weeks in the MLB, meaning some could return in time for the play-offs.
Rodriguez, baseball's highest-paid player, could be suspended until the end of the 2014 season because he allegedly committed other offences connected to the investigation, it was reported.
"I think all of us are curious about what's going to happen, and is Alex going to be a player for us tomorrow, and what's going to happen with the other guys that are involved in this?" Girardi said.
"[But] in my mind I have him pencilled in [for Chicago]."
Even if Rodriguez is suspended he may still play today, pending an appeal.
Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson was excited A-Rod could play during an appeal.
"I want him back with us. This is arguably one of the best hitters of all time," he said. "Having him in the line-up is obviously going to be very positive for us."
New York are a season-high 9-1/2 games out of first place in the AL East and 4-1/2 out in the race for the second wild-card spot.
"We're going to be happy to see him back in the line-up, especially the way we've been playing," second baseman Robinson Cano said. "He can come up and help us win some games."
Girardi did not think A-Rod's arrival would create more turmoil than the Yankees already are used to. "I don't suspect it'll be awkward. Most of these guys know him as a teammate and have laughed a lot with Alex and been around Alex a lot," he said. "I think it'll be business as usual."
Rodriguez said after a minor league rehabilitation start last Friday that he expected to join the Yankees for the first time this season today if he was not "struck by lightning".
But that is just what some reports say will happen to the 38-year-old three-time American League Most Valuable Player when they suggested MLB commissioner Bud Selig could ban Rodriguez for life if he is judged to have impeded baseball's investigation of the Biogenesis affair.
Even if Rodriguez gets a shorter ban, to the end of the 2014 season, Selig could still invoke his right to protect the best interests of the sport to prevent the slugger from playing during any appeal process.
Usually in baseball, players can continue to play while appealing disciplinary action, and Rodriguez has vowed to fight any sanction.
He said last Friday that he believed the attempt to ban him was linked to a bid to avoid paying all or some of the almost US$100 million remaining on his record US$275 million contract that runs to 2017.
"There is more than one party that benefits from me not ever stepping back on the field. And that's not my teammates and it's not the Yankee fans," he said.
"When all this stuff is going on in the background and people are finding creative ways to cancel your contract and stuff like that, I think that's a concern for me."
Rodriguez admitted in 2009 to using steroids while he played for the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003, when they were not yet banned under major league rules.
That admission has shadowed his stellar achievements on the field, including a 2009 World Series title with the Yankees and 647 career home runs that put him fifth on MLB's all-time career list.
Thus far, none of the players implicated in the game's latest doping scandal have tested positive under MLB's anti-doping test programme, toughened in recent years after complaints from US lawmakers.
But some players have already been suspended for their links to the clinic, including Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon, and Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Among others linked to Biogenesis, in evidence first obtained by the Miami New Times newspaper, are Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta and San Diego infielder Everth Cabrera.
If the suspensions are handed down, it would be the most comprehensive doping ban imposed by the sport.
Several stars have admitted to doping and such icons as US home run king Barry Bonds and pitching legend Roger Clemens escaped doping charges in court cases, but only after their legacies were tainted and the sport took a black eye with fans.
Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Associated Press