(RNN) – New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez deflected questions about his 211-game suspension in an awkward news conference before the team's game against the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
Major League Baseball earlier announced the aging star's suspension based on its conclusion that he possessed and used performance-enhancing drugs and tried to impede the investigation. The suspension will begin Thursday and continue through the 2014 season. Rodriquez will be allowed to play while he appeals the decision.
Rodruguez did not deny that he used PEDs, but did say that there will be a time and place to discuss the matter. He would not answer a reporter who asked if he thought the investigation was a "witch hunt."
"I don't want to discuss the motivation [for MLB's decision], but I respect the process, and we will have the opportunity to do that. I am disappointed with the news today, but we always fought for the process, and we have that."
He said he has seen all the evidence and accusations against him and that he will speak more freely about them at a later time.
Manager Joe Girardi said he had no internal conflict about batting his star in the cleanup position and starting him at third base against the Chicago White Sox.
"In our world, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty," Girardi said.
He called A-Rod's return both a "good and a bad day for baseball."
"It's a black eye for us, but the union and baseball are working together to clean this up," he added.
The MLB release that announced the suspension earlier Monday itemized at least some of the drugs the league said he was taking and claimed he was uncooperative with the investigation.
"Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years," an MLB release stated.
It also declared Rodriguez attempted to cover up his actions, as well as taking steps to "obstruct and frustrate" Commissioner Bud Selig's investigation.
He would be 40 years old before he can return to the sport if the ruling is upheld. The former All-Star slugger's agent announced they planned to appeal any suspension.
The announcement came shortly after MLB suspended 12 players 50 games each for their suspected roles in the case on Biogenesis clinic and performance-enhancing drugs.
Fox Sports reported the 12 have accepted their punishments and will not appeal.
Notable players suspended include Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Antonio Bastardo. Cruz and Peralta's respective clubs are in the midst of challenging for a playoff berth; both would be eligible to return for postseason play.
Three players connected to Biogenesis had already served 50-game suspensions for positive drug tests and would not receive further punishment, according to Fox Sports. They were Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera and San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal.
The Washington Nationals' Gio Gonzalez and Baltimore Orioles' Danny Valencia were cleared of wrongdoing.
Other suspended players:
Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera
Padres pitcher Fautino De Los Santos
Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli
Yankees outfielder Fernando Martinez
New York Mets outfielder Jordany Valdespin
Mets outfielder Cesar Puello
Seattle Mariners catcher Jesus Montero
Houston Astros reliever Sergio Escalona
Free agent pitcher Jordan Norberto
Miami-based Biogenesis, a so-called anti-aging clinic, has been under a lengthy investigation by MLB for allegations it provided steroids to baseball players and other athletes.
Monday marked Rodriquez's return to the lineup for the first time since he was injured in last year's playoffs. He said the last seven months have been the worst time of his life.
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