The last thing the New York Yankees need is for the off-field distraction from Alex Rodriguez's return to hinder their play on the diamond.
Riding a 14-inning scoreless stretch, Hiroki Kuroda looks to help the visiting Yankees rebound from a rough performance in Rodriguez's season debut as they face Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night.
Amidst a chorus of boos, Rodriguez went 1 for 4 with a bloop single Monday, hours after he was suspended by Major League Baseball through 2014 for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. However, Andy Pettitte allowed seven runs and 11 hits in 2 2-3 innings as New York (57-54) lost for the 12th time in 18 games, 8-1 at Chicago.
While the win snapped the White Sox's 10-game losing streak, the defeat ended a whirlwind day for the embattled Rodriguez, who will continue his return from hip surgery while appealing his ban.
"We're just getting started in this process,'' Rodriquez said of challenging the decision. "But for me, personally, I just want to get back to baseball, playing hard and playing with a lot of intensity. I just want to see what our team has to offer.
"My focus is: What can I do to help this team win?"
Manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees appear glad to have Rodriguez back, but the attention drawn to his situation likely won't subside and could pose further distraction for a team struggling to remain in playoff contention.
"He's here, he's going to play," Girardi told the Yankees' official website. "It really doesn't change anything for us."
Kuroda (10-6, 2.38 ERA) has allowed two runs over 33 innings while going 3-0 in his last five starts. He's not allowed a run in four of those contests, including the last two.
The right-hander gave up five hits and struck out eight in seven innings while not factoring in the decision of a 3-0 win Wednesday over Los Angeles Dodgers, with whom he began his career.
"I've seen him do that for years,'' Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said. "He's one of the best pitchers in the American League."
Kuroda is 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA against the White Sox (41-69). He allowed three hits and struck out 11 in seven innings of a 4-0 win over Chicago last season.
Sale (6-11, 2.92) looks to avoid losing four straight starts for the second time this season after he allowed five runs and 10 hits in five innings of a 6-1 loss at Cleveland on Thursday. The left-hander, who has the lowest run-support average in the majors at 2.47, is 1-9 with a 3.23 ERA in last 11 starts.
"I'm not going to sit here and make excuses,'' Sale said. "I got my butt kicked (Thursday). I didn't feel as good as I usually do, but I'm a professional and I have to find a way to fight through it."
He gave up a homer to Derek Jeter, two other hits and struck out 13 in 7 2-3 innings of a 2-1 home victory over the Yankees last season.
Sale won't have to face Jeter, who is back on the disabled list with a strained calf.
Alexei Ramirez had four hits and Alex Rios four RBIs for the White Sox, who scored 10 fewer runs Monday than they totaled during their losing streak.
Rios is batting .321 in his last seven games.
Chicago could be without left fielder Dayan Viciedo, who jammed his thumb in the opener trying to make a diving catch.