Jeff Moeller, Special to USA TODAY Sports
TRENTON, N.J. - Alex Rodriguez is ready to play and ready to put up a fight. He certainly doesn't see the next games possibly being his last with the threat of a lifetime ban or a lengthy suspension from major league baseball over his head.
The much-maligned, 14-time All-Star who has 647 career home runs, hit a two-run homer for the Class AA Trenton Thunder over five innings of play in a 6-2 victory over the Reading Fightin Phils during the first of two rehabilitation games Friday night.
Rodriguez, who spent the week at the New York Yankees' minor league complex and previously played in a 13-game, 20-day rehabilitation assignment, admittedly feels ready to step on the field Monday in Chicago barring a suspension.
"I feel like I am ready to go right now," said Rodriguez.
However, Rodriguez believes there are forces conspiring against him from ever stepping on the field again.
USA TODAY Sports reported earlier Friday that it is still not apparent that Rodriguez and his team of attorneys will soften their stance of no negotiations with Major League Baseball over potential penalties stemming from the Biogenesis case.
"There are a lot of layers to it," Rodriguez said. "My job is to be able to take the field. As far as the legal stuff, I can't answer that. There are a lot of fans and teammates wondering and asking what is going on.
"There is more than one party that benefits from me not stepping on the field. It is not my teammates, it is not the Yankees. People have been trying to get creative trying to cancel my contract."
When asked who the party was, Rodriguez said, "What do you think?"
A-Rod also responded with the same answer when asked if he was being singled out by Major League Baseball.
MLB has given the Yankees star a choice, according to a baseball official familiar with their intentions: accept a suspension through the 2014 season or face a lifetime ban. The official was unauthorized to speak publicly about the situation since the talks are private.
Other players involved are expected to draw suspensions of 50 games.
For Rodriguez, a 2014 ban would result in a 217-game penalty - if implemented Friday - and a loss of $34.5 million in salary. Rodriguez would still be due $61 million from 2015-2017, as well as a possible $30 million in bonuses - if he averts a lifetime suspension.
Rodriguez said he spoke to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman earlier in the day and Cashman stated that he will play with Trenton Saturday night and then have a short workout before Sunday's game. He plans to rejoin the team in Chicago Monday.
"Absolutely," said Rodriguez in response to a question about rejoining the team Monday. "That is the tentative plan if everything goes well. I'm excited because I think I can help the team. My body is beginning to react the right way.
"I think I'll be better in six months. I think I'll be better in 12 months. But I do like the way the ball is jumping off my bat. I also like the way I am throwing the ball. That's the perfect example of me hitting and throwing a ball in July, August and September.
"I love the Yankees. I love the clubhouse and my brothers. I'm excited to go back there and help them win another championship."
When asked if he is mentally ready to sit out if the suspensions happen, Rodriguez responded positively.
"I'm ready to plan for the next five years. In my first 10 days in Tampa, I was a little slow. But as time went on, I became more comfortable. I feel like I can play for a long time and be very productive.
"I haven't really thought about it that much (suspensions). I'm just excited about how I feel and how I can play."
Rodriguez admitted he hadn't heard a recent report from MLB alleging the suspended players have until 6 p.m. Sunday to accept suspension deals.
"I hadn't heard that," he said. "I'm doing what I can on the field to get better. I love the game and it has been very good to me. I plan to be in Chicago on Monday unless I get struck by lightning.
"I can't comment on that right now on an ongoing investigation."
Rodriguez blasted a 2-0 pitch from top Philadelphia Phillies prospect Jesse Biddle in the bottom of third and drove the ball approximately 350 feet and well over the 30-foot-plus left field wall.
A-Rod earlier hit two homers in a 13-game, 20-day rehab assignment with both Trenton and Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he hit .200 (8-for-40).
After he hit his homer, A-Rod pointed toward his girlfriend, Torrie Wilson, who was sitting behind home plate and wore a Yankees cap.
In his first at-bat in the bottom of the first, Rodriguez didn't swing the bat and drew a walk.
Rodriguez looked smooth in the field at third base as he snapped a sharp grounder in the second, had the ball pop up in his glove, but he recovered, spun around, and threw out Reading John Suomi.
In the fourth, Rodriguez knocked down a grounder, picked it up and moved fluidly to throw out Reading's Albert Cartwright.
In his final at-bat in the bottom of the fifth, Rodriguez was greeted with series of cheers and worked out a 2-1 count before he had a swinging second strike. On the next pitch, A-Rod took a called third strike. As he prepared to enter the dugout, he gave his bat to a fan.
"A night like tonight illustrates to me that I can still play and be productive," he said. "I would love to play another five more years. I have been playing this game since I was three. I tis the only thing I know what to do. It is my livelihood.
"This is not time for me to hang it up."