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Despite suspension, A-Rod happy to be playing again

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Alex Rodriguez was back where he wanted to be Monday, playing third base for the New York Yankees.

He even got a base hit, but the day probably didn't go as well as he would have hoped.

"I mean, I don't think there's a 'well' in any of this situation," Rodriguez said postgame, long after learning he'd been suspended by Major League Baseball for the rest of this season and all of next season. "I just hope that there's a happy ending somewhere in there. But as far as with the game, which is what I'm going to focus from now on and all I'm going to talk about, we have some important games coming up, and it was good to see the guys and see what's going on here."

Prior to the Yankees' 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox, Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games by Major League Baseball for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic. He has three days to appeal. Rodriguez, who activated from the disabled list before the game after sitting out due to hip surgery and then a quadriceps injury, was lustily booed before each at-bat and when he ran onto the field before the game at U.S. Cellular Field.

The press box at the ballpark, usually half-filled to cover the last-place White Sox, was packed. Fans waited outside the stadium to see Rodriguez arrive. The slugger's return even overshadowed Mariano Rivera's last stop in Chicago and Derek Jeter's latest trip to the disabled list.

"I thought he looked all right. It's more of how you feel, not necessarily how you look because you could be out there for six months and have days where you look terrible," Jeter said.

Batting cleanup and playing third base, Rodriguez hit a bloop single to left in his first at-bat, leading off the second inning. In the fourth, he flied out to deep center. His drive with one out in the sixth was caught on the warning track. In his final at-bat in the eighth, Rodriguez was called out on strikes while batting against Matt Lindstrom, ending a 1-for-4 night in his first game of the season.

"I thought he looked OK. I thought his swings looked pretty good tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "That's about all I can say. I thought he looked OK."

Rodriguez added, "(It was) a hard day today, that's for sure. A long day.

"I felt pretty good. From this moment on, I want to focus on baseball and play every game like it's do-or-die. Every game is very important for us."

That was the theme of much of Rodriguez's comments Monday. When it came to specifics of his expected appeal of the suspension, Rodriguez declined to answer specifically.

Instead, he wanted to talk about baseball and his thoughts on playing for the first time in 2013.

"In some ways I (felt like an 18-year-old). I don't know if my bones would ever feel again like I'm 18," Rodriguez said. "But it was fun. To go out there and play the game again, it was a tough game for us for sure, but it was good to be out there."

Rodriguez played eight innings in the field and handled every chance cleanly. He also raced from first to third on a Vernon Wells double in the second.

"I don't see a huge difference from last year," Girardi said. "I thought he moved OK. I'd like to see it a little bit more to know if he really has to bust it on one to see where he's at. But I think he moved OK."

Girardi said before the game that Rodriguez would be in the lineup as long as he's available.

"It really doesn't change anything for us," the manager said of Rodriguez's suspension and appeal. "If he's healthy and he feels good, we expect him to be productive and I'm going to play him.

"I think it's kind of clear what the expectations are by where I put him in the lineup. I expect him to drive in runs and have productive at-bats for us and he'll play third base. He'll DH some, too, because I know he has to work into that everyday playing shape again and he's worked hard to get to this point."

Of course, not everybody at the ballpark was focused on Rodriguez. Some, like White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, were consumed with other issues, namely his team's 10-game losing streak, which was snapped Monday night.

"You've seen this team play recently, I've got 99 problems and A-Rod ain't one of them," Hahn said.
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