A day after baseball suffered another black eye due to a player testing positive for a banned substance, Rodriguez makes his season debut following hip surgery - and plays his first game since admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs - when the sinking Yankees face the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
Rodriguez rejoins New York (13-15) at a time when it is in desperate need of a spark, losing five straight for the first time since May 2007.
“We’re all very encouraged that he’s doing well and we’re all anxious to get him back,” said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, whose team lost 8-6 to Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
The three-time AL MVP recovered quicker than expected after hip surgery March 9, but the damage to his place in baseball history may last much longer after he admitted in February to taking steroids while playing for Texas from 2001-03.
Rodriguez also spent much of his rehab assignment fielding questions about a biography released this week that suggests he used performance-enhancing drugs in high school and may have taken them as a Yankee in 2004.
He’s returning one day after Los Angeles Dodgers star Manny Ramirez(notes) was handed a 50-game ban linked to drug use. Ramirez apparently used the female fertility drug HCG, which is popular among steroid users because it can relieve the side effects of ending a cycle of the drugs.
Ramirez’s ban comes three months after Rodriguez’s admission, and at a time when Barry Bonds(notes) is under federal indictment and Roger Clemens(notes) is being investigated by a federal grand jury in cases linked to steroid use. Former sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa(notes) have also had their reputations tainted by steroid allegations.
Rodriguez has managed to avoid a suspension, and New York badly needs his bat in the lineup. He should allow other Yankees to see better pitches, especially No. 3 hitter Mark Teixeira(notes), who’s batting .198 after signing a $180 million, eight-year contract in the offseason.
While the Yankees will be happy to get Rodriguez back, they have to be stunned - and concerned - after closer Mariano Rivera(notes) allowed back-to-back home runs for the first time in his career Thursday. Rivera has given up four home runs this season, matching his total for each of the last two seasons.
The left-hander gave up five runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings as New York lost 8-4 to Los Angeles on Saturday. It was another disappointing performance from Sabathia, who signed a $161 million, seven-year contract.
“I’ve got to do a better job of keeping us in the game,” he said.
Sabathia is 5-1 with a 3.01 ERA in 10 starts versus the Orioles. He faced Baltimore in his first start of the season, pitching six innings and giving up three runs and seven hits in a 10-5 loss April 6.
Guthrie, though, is 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA in his last four starts. In his last outing, the right-hander allowed four runs in eight innings as Baltimore lost 4-3 to Toronto on Sunday.
He’ll be trying to help Baltimore win three straight for the first time this season. The Orioles defeated Minnesota 5-4 on Thursday night for a two-game sweep.
Baltimore got some timely hits from unexpected sources. Lou Montanez(notes) was batting .154 when he singled in the eighth inning to score Melvin Mora(notes), who came in hitting .222 but homered in his first at-bat to end a 2-for-24 skid.
Baltimore won two of three at New York from April 6-9, scoring a combined 17 runs in the victories.