NEW YORK — Defiant till the end, Alex Rodriguez is intent on evading baseball's most sweeping punishment since the Black Sox scandal.
Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 and All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera were banned 50 games apiece Monday when Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
The harshest penalty was reserved for Rodriguez, the New York Yankees slugger, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball's highest-paid star. He said he will appeal his suspension, which covers 211 games, by Thursday's deadline. And since arbitrator Fredric Horowitz isn't expected to rule until November or December at the earliest, Rodriguez was free to make his season debut Monday night and play the rest of this year.
Sidelined since hip surgery in January, Rodriguez rejoined the Yankees five hours after the suspension in a series opener at the Chicago White Sox, where he singled in his first at-bat of the season.
"The last seven months has been a nightmare, has been probably the worst time of my life for sure," Rodriguez said.
The other 12 players agreed to their 50-game penalties before they were announced, giving them a chance to return for the playoffs.
Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension last month and previous penalties bring to 18 the total number of players sanctioned for their connection with Biogenesis.
At the center of it all was Rodriguez, once the greatest player of his time, reduced Monday night to saying that he was humbled, at 38, just to "have the opportunity to put on this uniform again" and adding if he didn't fight for his career, no one else would.
A-Rod's drug penalty was 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," MLB said.
His punishment under the labor contract was "for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner's investigation."
In Chicago, Rodriguez wouldn't deny using PEDs, saying "when the time is right, there will be an opportunity to do all of that. I don't think that time is right now."Suspended players
211 games: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
50 games: Philadelphia LHP Antonio Bastardo, San Diego SS Everth Cabrera, New York Yankees C Francisco Cervelli, Texas OF Nelson Cruz, San Diego RHP Fautino De Los Santos (San Antonio-Texas), Houston LHP Sergio Escalona (Corpus Christi-Texas), New York Yankees OF Fernando Martinez (Scranton/Wilkes-IL), Seattle C Jesus Montero, free agent LHP Jordan Norberto, Detroit SS Jhonny Peralta, New York Mets OF Cesar Puello (Binghamton-Eastern) and New York Mets INF Jordany Valdespin (Las Vegas-PCL)