CHICAGO — As shutters whirred and keyboards clicked, Alex Rodriguez told a packed conference room at U.S. Cellular Field that he is "fighting for my life" while facing a 211-game suspension that will cause him to miss the 2014 season.
"I have to defend myself," the New York Yankees star said before his season debut in Monday's scheduled game with the Chicago White Sox. "No one else will do it."
"The last seven months have been a nightmare," Rodriguez also said. "Definitely the worst time in my life, for sure."
When asked point blank why he wouldn't just come out and deny any PED abuse, Rodriguez resorted to many of the cliches that dominated his 12 1/2 minutes of press conference time. Saying he had to "respect the [appeal] process" and that "now isn't the time," Rodriguez declined to deny any of the evidence that has tied him to Biogenesis and caused Major League Baseball to hit him with the longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball history.
"I'm not going to get into [any specifics] today," Rodriguez said. "I'm obviously disappointed with the news, no question about it ... That's as much as I'm comfortable telling you right now."Rodriguez's press conference was held almost two hours before the start of the game, which also marked his first time in the Yankees lineup since last year's ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. He is batting fourth against the White Sox, a position that manager Joe Girardi said reflected the team's belief in what he'll be able to produce at the plate.
Rodriguez, however, didn't produce many answers in front of the microphone. He did say that he has seen all of the evidence that Major League Baseball has compiled against him and that he'll give his rebuttal "when the time is right."
At a few points during the press conference, Rodriguez said he was excited to get on the field again and that he felt like it was his major league debut all over again.
"I am thrilled and humbled to be able to put on this uniform again," he said.
Earlier in the afternoon, Girardi met with the media and said he didn't think there was "any room for PEDs in baseball" and that "hard work" is the only real route to success.
Despite those beliefs, Girardi said he didn't have any qualms about batting A-Rod in the cleanup spot as he appeals his monster suspension.
"The thing I try to be careful about my life is that I'm not in this world to judge people," Girardi said. " That's not my job. My job is to get the best out of people and try to be there for people. That's what I will do."