Yankee desperation only reason Alex Rodriguez in cleanup spot?

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

CHICAGO – Suspended for alleged serial violations of Major League Baseball's anti-drug policy on Monday afternoon, Alex Rodriguez batted cleanup and played third base for the New York Yankees on Monday night.

"I look at him as a player as long as he's in the clubhouse," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

By rule, Rodriguez has three days to appeal his 211-game sentence, the largest since Pete Rose received a lifetime ban for betting on baseball in 1989. Rodriguez is free to play during the appeal process, which typically takes about three weeks.

Until then, the offensively impotent Yankees – the Bronx Bombers ranked 13th of 15 American League teams in runs scored through Sunday, the primary reason they are a distant fourth place in the AL East – intend to use Rodriguez as often as he is capable. Recovering from hip surgery, Rodriguez played Monday for the first time since October. Derek Jeter, another critical element in the Yankees' lineup, has missed 106 games because of various injuries. He returned to the disabled list Monday, just as Rodriguez arrived.

So, as long as league policy admits them to play Rodriguez, whose 647 home runs lead all active players and are fifth all-time, the Yankees will play him.

Rodriguez also has implied that the league and the Yankees have conspired to keep him off the field. The Yankees owe Rodriguez, 38, about $95 million over the next 4½ seasons. Between his injuries and advancing age, Rodriguez's production in recent seasons has diminished. If Rodriguez were declared unfit to play, an insurance policy would pay a large portion of his contract, freeing the Yankees of the burden. Players are not paid during their suspensions.

"I think we all agree that we want to get rid of PEDs," Rodriguez said in the closing days of MLB's investigation into about a dozen players it suspected had bought and/or used illicit drugs. "But when all the stuff is going on in the background, and people are finding creative ways to cancel your contract … that's concerning for me.

"There's more than one party that benefits from me not stepping back on the field – that's not my teammates and that's not Yankee fans."

The Yankees have denied any effort to obstruct Rodriguez's return.

Appearing fit and eager, Rodriguez joined his team Monday after his long recovery. He singled in his first at-bat.

"I am thrilled and humbled that I have the opportunity to put on this uniform again," he said.

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