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A-Rod on schedule for Yankees return and this time even his GM agrees

Alex Rodriguez, YankeesAlex Rodriguez has batted .179 with one home run in his 10 rehab games. (Bradley C. Bower/AP)

This time, Brian Cashman didn't tell Alex Rodriguez to "shut the **** up" after the embattled Yankee slugger offered his latest progress report. In a radio appearance on Wednesday afternoon, Rodriguez told WFAN's Mike Francesca that he expects to be back in the Yankees lineup on Monday, July 22, not coincidentally, the date when his 20-day rehab assignment expires.

Cashman confirmed Rodriguez's progress via a conversation with the Bergen Record's Bob Klapisch:

http://twitter.com/BobKlap/statuses/357586665914642432

Out since undergoing surgery to repair a torn left hip labrum in mid-January, the soon-to-be-38-year-old Rodriguez got off to an inauspicious start during his rehab assignment, going hitless in his first two games at Low-A Charleston and battling the rain at High-A Tampa. Slowly but surely, his timing is returning, as is his stamina; he went 2-for-4 with a home run at Double-A Trenton on Monday and played his first full game in the field on Tuesday.

As with virtually everything when it comes to Rodriguez, his rehab hasn't been without its drama. Last Friday, he met with MLB investigators for several hours to discuss allegations that he received performance-enhancing drugs from the Miami-area Biogenesis clinic. Afterward, he was AWOL from a game that was ultimately rained out. "Look, whatever conversation I had with my coaches and my trainers, I will keep that private,” he told reporters in connection to that absence.

As to how long he'll be back, the latest developments in the Biogenesis case raise the possibility that he and other connected players — said to be as many as 20 — could receive something besides a 50- or 100-game suspension as mandated by the Joint Drug Agreement. According to MLB Players Association executive director Michael Weiner, the players' union and Commissioner Bud Selig agree that suspensions based on non-analytic positives — i.e., those without a failed drug test — fall under the "just cause" provision of the agreement, which means they're at the commisioner's discretion. From the AP writeup of Tuesday's press conference with the Baseball Writers Association of America:

While most suspensions have been for positive tests since the joint drug agreement was reached in 2002, players also can be penalized for "just cause," based on other evidence.

"In theory, they could be suspended for five games or 500 games," Weiner said. "We could then choose to challenge or not, but the commissioner's office is not bound by the 50-100-life scale."

For all of the recent hype regarding impending suspensions, they may not wind up being served this year. From USA Today's Bob Nightengale:

As baseball's biggest names gathered here for the 84th All-Star Game at Citi Field, a crucial detail was revealed: The game's next jewel event — the World Series — won't be compromised by players suspended for their connection to Biogenesis.

The Major League Baseball Players Association doesn't anticipate it will be notified of any suspensions until August, and if players appeal, the timing of the hearings, appeal process and the arbitrator's decision makes it virtually impossible for anything to happen before November.

Thus the ailing Yankees offense, which still ranks 12th in the league in scoring at 3.93 runs per game, can soon look forward to getting back Rodriguez, and even if he can't be an everyday third baseman, he could help boost their offensive production at both third (where their hitters have combined to bat .225/.288/.301) and designated hitter (where they've batted .214/.300/.370). Additionally, the Yankees are hopeful that Derek Jeter will return to the lineup this weekend after suffering a mild quad strain in his first regular season game of the year last Thursday.

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