published Monday, August 5th, 2013

Alex Rodriguez to reporters: 'Fighting for my life'

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez answers questions from the media during a press conference after a minor league baseball rehab start with the Trenton Thunder in a game against the Reading Fightin Phils, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013 at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, N.J.. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez answers questions from the media during a press conference after a minor league baseball rehab start with the Trenton Thunder in a game against the Reading Fightin Phils, Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013 at Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton, N.J.. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

CHICAGO — Alex Rodriguez says he’s fighting for his life.

The embattled New York Yankees’ slugger did not deny using performance enhancing drugs on Monday in a news conference after Major League Baseball suspended him through the 2014 season. He said he will talk about whether he used PEDs at another time, when he is free to speak his mind.

He did, however, dig in for a battle, saying no one else will defend him unless he stands up for himself.

“There’s nothing about it that’s been easy,” Rodriguez said. “All of it has been challenging. I’m sure there’s been mistakes made along the way. We’re here now. I’m a human being. I’ve had two hip surgeries. I’ve had two knee surgeries. I’m fighting for my life.”

The three-time MVP was one of 13 players disciplined on Monday, one of the biggest mass suspensions in the history of the game.

All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera were banned 50 games each. Rodriguez, however, got 211 games, due to start Thursday.

He will appeal his suspension, and that means he will likely be able to play the rest of this season while his case winds through arbitration.

With the Yankees playing the White Sox in Chicago on Monday, A-Rod was scheduled to start at third base and bat fourth. It was his first appearance after having hip surgery in January.

Prior to his first game since last Oct. 18, Rodriguez signed autographs and drew a crowd — of both fans and photographers.

Rodriguez said “a lot” went into his decision to appeal his case but added “I’m not going to get into any of that today.”

“What we’ve always fought for was for the process, and I think we have that and at some point we’ll sit in front of an arbiter and give our case,” he said. “And that’s as much as I feel comfortable telling you right now.”

Asked if he denies using PEDs, Rodriguez said, “Like I said, we’ll have a forum to discuss all of that and we’ll talk about it then.”

If he hasn’t used PEDs since then, why not say it?

“There’s a lot of things that have been thrown to the wall, and I think when the time is right, there will be an opportunity to do all of that,” he said. “I don’t think that time is right now. And I don’t want to interfere or get in the way of anything that — with the process.”

On Friday, Rodriguez hinted that the Yankees did not want him back and were trying to avoid paying him the $94.5 million they still owe him through 2017.

Union executive director Michael Weiner said those comments were probably out of frustration and that Rodriguez would probably agree they were “counterproductive.”

Weiner also said he and Rodriguez have talked since then — but not about those comments.

“But I would guess that all things considered, and having thought about it a little bit, he’s probably not very happy with those comments,” Weiner added.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, brushed off a question about his comment on Friday, saying “Today is another day, and I’m focused on what my job is and my responsibilities to the New York Yankees and to the fan base of New York.”

He thanked the fans, media, people from the Dominican Republic and Hispanics “all over the world” for the support.

Whether he has the Yankees’ support is another issue.

“If I’m productive, I think they want me back,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez batted .120 (3 for 25) with no RBIs last postseason, including 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handers.

“It’s been a long time for me, and the last time I was on the field it wasn’t pretty,” he said. “I was horrific.”

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