With Alex Rodriguez's fate yet to be decided by Major League Baseball, the Yankees third baseman is headed to Trenton.
The Yankees announced Thursday that Rodriguez will play rehab games with the Double-A Trenton Thunder Friday night and Saturday night. Whether Rodriguez actually will play in those games is in question, though, as MLB is on the verge of announcing disciplinary action in the Biogenesis probe.
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It remains uncertain whether Rodriguez will make a deal with MLB or appeal expected severe punishment.
MLB suspensions appear imminent and could come as early as Friday. MLB essentially has set a hard deadline for players to accept the suspensions because the remaining schedule of games is nearing 50 -- the number a majority of the players (not including Rodriguez) are expected to receive for allegedly being linked to performance-enhancing drugs from the now-shuttered anti-aging clinic in Miami. Most of the players are not expected to appeal, sources said.
Rodriguez, who has missed the entire season after hip surgery and then a grade 1 quadriceps strain, completed a five-day rehabilitation stint in Tampa Thursday.
A source said Thursday there is "no news" to report from Rodriguez's side, which has not publicly changed its stance since Monday, when attorney David Cornwell said in a radio interview that he had not held any negotiations with MLB and was concentrating on preparing an appeal if Rodriguez is disciplined.
On Wednesday, ESPN reported that Rodriguez's representatives were negotiating a possible settlement that could result in a lengthy suspension. That followed reports that commissioner Bud Selig was prepared to impose a lifetime ban on Rodriguez unless a settlement is reached. If Selig does step in, Rodriguez will have to sit out during his appeal process.
His grievance would be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, who Thursday was described as "intelligent and impartial as they come" by a fellow arbitrator.
An industry source termed Selig's threat to intervene as a "Sword of Damocles, game of chicken" designed to prompt a settlement with Rodriguez.
"The assumption is the issue is over punishment [MLB] wants to mete out and [Rodriguez's camp] is not happy with it," the source said.
Another source suggested that MLB was unable to gauge Rodriguez's interest in making a deal.
In addition to Cornwell, Rodriguez reportedly has contacted the New York firm of Cohen, Weiss and Simon. A person at the firm would not disclose its relationship with Rodriguez, directing questions to his representatives Thursday.
Regardless of whether he makes a settlement or seeks to appeal, Rodriguez has a great deal of money at stake if he receives a long suspension. He would lose about $9 million for the remainder of this season. He is owed $86 million from 2014 through 2017 in his 10-year, $275-million deal.
Rodriguez participated in a simulated game Thursday in Tampa that was not open to the media.
He arrived at the Yankees' minor-league facility alone at about 9 a.m. and was escorted to the back entrance by a clubhouse assistant. At some point, while the assembled media waited for him to emerge from the clubhouse, he was shuttled secretly over to Steinbrenner Field.
At about 12:25 p.m. he was spotted on the Legends Field grass fielding grounders at third base. Through a gate beyond the rightfield foul pole, media members could see Rodriguez leading off second base a couple of times and also playing defense.
Afterward, as he was about to drive away from the complex, he motioned to a handful of writers to meet him at his driver's-side window.
"I'll talk to you guys, but no cameras," he said.
When it became clear that the cameras weren't going away, Rodriguez rolled up his window and exited without commenting further.
A player who did speak briefly was the Rangers' Nelson Cruz, who also is linked to the Biogenesis probe. When asked Thursday if he had been told specifically what penalty is forthcoming, Cruz, who entered Thursday night with 25 home runs and 73 RBIs and made the American League All-Star team, told The Associated Press, "No, I cannot tell you, sorry."
With Bryan Burns in Tampa