NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez may have to wait a little longer Monday for official word on his suspension.
Instead of noon, Major League Baseball was likely to push back an announcement on Biogenesis punishments until later in the day, people with knowledge of the decision said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
In a one-of-a-kind day, A-Rod was to make his season debut for the New York Yankees on Monday night, just hours after receiving the suspension and appealing the penalty.
MLB informed the Yankees on Sunday that A-Rod will be suspended for his links to a clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs, one of the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statement was authorized.
The Yankees weren’t told the exact length of the suspension, though they were under the impression it will be through the 2014 season, the person said.
But the person also said A-Rod will be eligible to play while he appeals the penalty to an arbitrator.
The Yankees star could get a shorter penalty if he agrees to give up the right to file a grievance and force the case before an arbitrator, the person added.
A suspension from Monday through 2014 would total 214 games, and an unsuccessful appeal could stretch serving the penalty into 2015.
In the era before players and owners agreed to a drug plan in late 2002, arbitrators often shortened drug suspensions — in the case of Yankees pitcher Steve Howe, his penalty was cut from a lifetime ban to 119 days.
Rodriguez is the most famous player linked to the now-closed Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic in Florida, and the Yankees expect him to be charged with interfering with MLB’s investigation, resulting in a harsher penalty than the other 13 players facing discipline.
Barring an agreement, Rodriguez’s appeal would be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz.
Adding to the drama: The 38-year-old Rodriguez, a three-time AL MVP, was due to rejoin the Yankees for their series opener at the Chicago White Sox, his first big league appearance since last October’s playoffs. He’s been rehabbing since hip surgery in January.
“He’s in there, and I’m going to play him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Sunday after New York’s 6-3 loss at San Diego.
Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson was excited A-Rod could play during an appeal.
“I want him back with us. This is arguably one of the best hitters of all time,” he said. “Having him in the lineup is obviously going to be very positive for us.”
New York is a season-high 9½ games out of first place in the AL East and 4½ out in the race for the second wild-card spot.
“We’re going to be happy to see him back in the lineup, especially the way we’ve been playing,” second baseman Robinson Cano said. “He can come up and help us win some games.”
All-Stars Nelson Cruz of Texas, Jhonny Peralta of Detroit and Everth Cabrera of San Diego were among those who could get 50-game suspensions from the probe, sparked in January when Miami New Times published documents linking many players to the closed clinic in Coral Gables, Fla.
Many players were expected to agree to penalties and start serving them immediately, but an appeal by a first-offender under the drug agreement would postpone his suspension until after a decision by an arbitrator.
Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, agreed July 22 to a 65-game ban through the rest of the 2013 season for his role with Biogenesis.
Braun was given a 50-game suspension for elevated testosterone that was overturned last year by arbitrator Shyam Das because of issues with the handling of the urine sample.
Since spring training, the union has said it will consider stiffer penalties starting in 2014.
“The home runs that are hit because a guy’s on performance-enhancing substances, those ruin somebody’s ERA, which ruins their arbitration case, which ruins their salary,” Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said. “So it’s a whole domino effect.”
Rodriguez’s return from hip surgery was slowed by a quadriceps injury. He completed his second minor league injury rehabilitation assignment on Saturday night, a two-day stay at Double-A Trenton. Rodriguez walked in all four plate appearances, a day after hitting a two-run homer.
Following Friday night’s game, Rodriguez all but said he thought MLB and the Yankees were conspiring to keep him from getting back to the big leagues.
“There is more than one party that benefits from me not ever stepping back on the field. And that’s not my teammates and it’s not the Yankee fans,” he said, adding: “When all this stuff is going on in the background and people are finding creative ways to cancel your contract and stuff like that, I think that’s concerning for me.”
He last played in October, going 3 for 25 (.120) with no RBIs in the playoffs. Rodriguez is owed $8,568,306 of his $28 million salary from Monday through the rest of the season and $86 million for the final four years of his contract with the Yankees.
Girardi didn’t think A-Rod’s arrival would create more turmoil than the Yankees already are used to.
“I don’t suspect it’ll be awkward. Most of these guys know him as a teammate and have laughed a lot with Alex and been around Alex a lot,” he said. “I think it’ll be business as usual. I’m sure there will be more media there, obviously, tomorrow, but I think that’s probably more for Alex to deal with than the rest of the guys. I don’t think it’ll be a big deal.”
Lawyers involved in the drug cases have been trying to reach agreements that would avoid grievances. Deal or no deal, Commissioner Bud Selig was prepared to announce discipline.
Peralta didn’t think the possibility of a suspension made it harder to focus on the field.
“Nothing to worry about,” he said. “Play the game how I play every day, and try to enjoy every day.”
Asked what action he would take if penalized, Cruz said: “I haven’t decided what I’m going to do.”
There have been 43 suspensions under the major league drug agreement since testing with penalties for first offenses started in 2005. The longest penalty served has been a 100-game suspension by San Francisco pitcher Guillermo Mota for a positive test for Clenbuterol, his second drug offense.
In addition, Tampa Bay outfielder Manny Ramirez retired two years ago rather than face a 100-game suspension. When he decided to return for 2012 the penalty was cut to 50 games because he already had sat out almost an entire season.
Colorado catcher Eliezer Alfonzo was suspended for 100 games in September 2011, but the penalty was rescinded the following May because of handling issues similar to the ones involving Braun’s urine sample.
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