The embattled shortstop Alex Rodriguez was back with the minor-league Trenton Thunder on Friday and hit what might be his last home run for quite a while.
With a lengthy suspension looming, the New York Yankees star hit a two-run homer to left field in the third inning of a 6-2 win over Reading.
Rodriguez is among 14 players facing discipline in Major League Baseball's Biogenesis investigation, and suspensions are expected on Monday - with Rodriguez facing the longest penalty.
"I am mentally prepared to play for five more years," he said. "It's not time for me to hang it up. I have a lot more fight in me."
Coming back from hip surgery and a quadriceps injury, "A-Rod" hopes to rejoin the Yankees for tomorrow's road game against the Chicago White Sox in what represents his first time back in the major leagues since last October.
"I think it's possible," said Joe Girardi, the Yankees' manager, in San Diego.
Rodriguez is counting on it.
"Unless I get hit by lightning, and these days you never know," he said. "A night like tonight illustrates to me that I can play now and I can play for a long time."
But he might not get back to the Yankees any time soon because of his alleged connection to Biogenesis, a closed anti-ageing clinic that has been accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Most targeted players face 50-game bans, reportedly including All-Stars Nelson Cruz of Texas and Jhonny Peralta of Detroit.
Many are expected to follow the example set by Milwaukee's Ryan Braun last month and accept penalties without a challenge before an arbitrator. First-time offenders who challenge suspensions can continue to play until their appeals are heard.
The Yankees expect A-Rod to be formally accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, attempting to obstruct MLB's investigation and not being truthful.
Baseball has been attempting to gain a suspension of Rodriguez through at least 2014 and has threatened a possible lifetime ban.
Negotiations over Rodriguez's penalty are likely to be extensive, with the third baseman, 38, resisting such a lengthy stretch on the sidelines.
He seems to think the Yankees are trying to keep him off the field.
While he remains on the disabled list and on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues, New York are reimbursed for his salary by insurance.
"There are a lot of layers," Rodriguez said. "I will say this: 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."
Rodriguez feels singled out.
"I think it is pretty self-explanatory. I think that is the pink elephant in the room," he said. "I think we all agree that we want to get rid of PEDs. That's a must. I think all the players, we feel that way. But 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, it's concerning for present and I think it should be concerning for future players, as well."
Baseball's highest-paid player with a US$28 million (Dh102.8m) salary, A-Rod has three law firms working for him - Gordon & Rees; Reed Smith; and Cohen, Weiss & Simon.
Rodriguez seemed to be on the verge of rejoining the Yankees, before the leg injury, last month.
New York assigned him to Trenton, the Double-A affiliate of the Yankees, for two games and has not said where he will go afterward.
It is not clear whether MLB commissioner Bud Selig would attempt to use provisions of baseball's labour contract to prevent Rodriguez from playing until arbitrator Fredric Horowitz rules on an appeal.
Lawyers from management and the players' union, plus attorneys for individual players, spent Friday working their way through the many issues resulting from mass suspensions.
For many players, the damage to their images already has been inflicted. Rodriguez has faced fan taunting since 2009, when he said he used PEDs while with the Texas Rangers between 2001/03.
Nike have confirmed it no longer has a relationship with Braun, the 2011 NL MVP who accepted a 65-game suspension last month that ended his season with Milwaukee Brewers.
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