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The Strike Zone

Despite a looming suspension, another chance for Alex Rodriguez to play ball

Alex Rodriguez has maintained that he is prepared to play for Yankees on Monday in Chicago. Alex Rodriguez has maintained that he is prepared to play for Yankees on Monday in Chicago. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

TRENTON, N.J. -- Two offseason events -- rehabilitation from hip surgery and allegations of a drug scandal -- have lingered over the first two-thirds of Alex Rodriguez’s 2013 season. Now, it seems that both will be resolved on the very same day in what promises to be a dramatic collision course. The Yankees third baseman is expected to make his big-league season debut on Monday evening, just hours after Major League Baseball is reportedly set to levy a suspension on him through the 2014 season.

There were multiple reports Sunday evening -- from the New York Post and others -- that the league will suspend Rodriguez on Monday for multiple PED allegations related to his connection with the Biogenesis clinic, but the ban apparently will stem only from violations of the Joint Drug Agreement, which would allow Rodriguez to play while appealing. (Suspensions via the “best interests of baseball” clause in the collective bargaining agreement offer the commissioner more latitude, though Bud Selig is reportedly opting not to exercise that.)

Though SI’s Tom Verducci reported that the league’s evidence against Rodriguez is “detailed and extensive,” the three-time AL MVP, who previously acknowledged steroid use only from 2001 to 2003, is expected to appeal the ban. It seems to be a plan of defiant determination on Rodriguez’s part, especially since the Brewers’ Ryan Braun already accepted a 65-game ban for his connection to Biogenesis, and it’s believed nearly every one of the reported 12 players facing bans will serve without appealing. A suspension through the 2014 season would be for 214 games and cost Rodriguez approximately $34 million in salary.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi told beat writers in San Diego that he has penciled Rodriguez in at third base for Monday night’s game against the White Sox at Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field. Lost in the shuffle of his likely suspension, Rodriguez’s return to New York’s lineup can only help an offense that has averaged less than three runs per night over its last 10 games.

Rodriguez conducted a brief workout on the field at Arm & Hammer Park -- closed to the media -- on an early Sunday afternoon that was nearly cloudless and maybe a tick north of 80 degrees. It was the type of day that makes one yearn to play ball or linger in the sunlight. Rodriguez, however, slipped out of the park quickly and unnoticed by way of an entrance off-limits to reporters.

After cryptically hinting at a conspiracy to keep him out of baseball after Friday night’s game -- comments that, according to at least one report, ended the league’s willingness to negotiate a settlement -- Rodriguez didn't speak before or after his Sunday workout and presumably went straight to the airport for his flight to Chicago.

At the end of many long months of hip rehab and Biogenesis reports, there’s a growing clarity about what awaits Rodriguez when he reaches his destination: the start of an arduous appeal process and another chance, even if only temporary, to play ball.

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