NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Yankees have pledged to stand by embattled slugger Alex Rodriguez while he fights his 211-game suspension for alleged doping offences.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said Rodriguez, who has filed an appeal against the ban, would remain in the lineup as long as he was fit.
“If he’s healthy, he’s definitely going to be, by far, better than what we’ve been running out there,” Cashman told reporters on Wednesday.
For the second night in a row Rodriguez was back in the team and playing against the Chicago White Sox, though manager Joe Girardi picked him as designated hitter instead of at third base.
Rodriguez, who made his first appearance of the season on Monday following a long injury, played in his traditional spot for his comeback but Girardi gave him a reduced workload on Tuesday.
“I didn’t even ask him. He said he felt good today,” Girardi said. “I didn’t even ask him. I thought it was a good idea.”
Rodriguez was jeered every time he came to the plate and went 1-for-2, getting on base three times as the Yankees lost 3-2 and failed to make up ground in the American League East.
He was also hit by a pitch from Chris Sale in the third inning, which was met with approval by the Chicago crowd.
There was no let-up off the field either as Rodriguez came under renewed criticism following Major League Baseball’s claims he had used steroids and human growth hormone purchased from the now-closed Biogenesis clinic in Florida.
But he did get the support of closer Mariano Rivera, one of the game’s most revered figures, playing his last season for the Yankees.
“Alex is my friend and definitely it’s hard when you see all this stuff and when you see the fans booing a player because I’m a player,” Rivera said.
“It’s hard, but it is what it is. At the same time, he’s a human being. Seeing the way they boo him is kind of hard to take and to see.”
Rodriguez was one of 13 players suspended by MLB on Monday but is the only one challenging his penalty. All the others accepted offers of 50-game bans but A-Rod got a stiffer punishment because he was accused of other offences, including lying to the investigators.
The players association has vowed to support his appeal although executive director Michael Weiner said he would have advised Rodriguez to accept a ban if MLB had offered him a lower penalty.
“I don’t want to give a number, but there was a number that I gave A-Rod and we advised him to take it,” Weiner told a U.S. radio station. “He was never given that number.”
Pete Rose, who was banned for life for gambling on baseball while he was a player and manager of the Cincinnati Reds, urged Rodriguez to own up if he had used performance enhancing drugs.
Rose denied the charges against him for years before finally confessing.
“We have to get these people to understand that if you make mistakes, people will forgive you if you come forward,” Rose told USA Today.
“He’s like the rest of us. He’s made some major mistakes and he’s trying to go on with his life. He’s in a tough position, I think, with this appeal and with the lawyers telling him to do this and do that.”
Reporting by Julian Linden; Editing by Peter Rutherford