Alex Rodriguez was suspended 211 games by MLB on Monday afternoon, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the Yankee lineup against the White Sox.
Rodriguez, who is appealing the suspension, will be playing third base and batting cleanup Monday night. But before he could take his place on the field, he addressed an overflow crowd of journalists prior to the opening pitch.
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"The last seven months have been a nightmare, probably the worst time of my life," Rodriguez said. "I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to put on this uniform again and to play Major League Baseball again."
Rodriguez was suspended for "his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years," according to the press release issued by MLB at 3 p.m. Monday.
The suspension was to cover the rest of the games this season and all of 2014, however, Rodriguez has appealed. Commissioner Bud Selig chose not to try invoking the "best interest of baseball" clause, which reports indicated he had considered to keep Rodriguez off the field during appeal.
Rodriguez would not speak much about the specifics of the appeal, but said he is ready to undergo the process.
"I don't know what the motivation is for any of this, but I'm going to respect the process [of appealing]," Rodriguez said.
He would not answer when asked directly whether he had used performance-enhancing drugs, saying the press conference was "not the forum" for that discussion.
"I'm fighting for my life," Rodriguez said. "I have to defend myself. If I don't defend myself, no one else will."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi faced many of the same questions in his regular pregame press conference prior to Rodriguez's. He said he never asked whether Rodriguez used PEDs.
"I'm not on this world to judge people," Girardi said. "That's not my job."
Girardi penciled Rodriguez into the lineup in the No. 4 spot for his first game back with the Yankees since going 0-for-2 off the bench in Game 4 of the ALCS against Detroit on Oct. 18, 2012.
Girardi said he did not know what would happen with the appeal, though he'll have plenty of time to find out. The appeal can be filed any time within 20 days of the suspension and it may not be ruled on by an arbitrator for another month. With that time frame, Girardi could be playing Rodriguez for the rest of the regular season.
"You want to hope the resolution [to the appeal] is that he's clean," Girardi said. "I mean that's the resolution that you hope for."
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.