TRENTON, N.J. - Alex Rodriguez said he was ready to board a plane for San Diego to join the Yankees after Friday night's game for Double-A Trenton and vowed to "keep fighting" amid the latest reports that Major League Baseball is prepared to hand down its Biogenesis-related suspensions as soon as Monday.
But even after launching a towering two-run homer over the 32-foot-high leftfield wall at Arm & Hammer Park, A-Rod saved his biggest swings for the postgame news conference, when he took some hacks at those he believes are singling him out for persecution. He refused to mention anyone by name but dropped some hints along the way -- and took a veiled shot at the Yankees and MLB.
"I think it's pretty self-explanatory," he said. "I think that's the pink elephant in the room.
"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 the present and should be concerning for future players as well. There is a process . . . and I'm going to keep fighting."
MLB reportedly has given a deadline of 6 p.m. EDT Sunday for the Biogenesis players to come to a plea agreement before suspensions are announced Monday. Rodriguez refused to address that question directly, but a source repeated Friday that he has no intention of making any deals. "This guy is fighting this," the source said.
MLB could give him a lifetime ban if Rodriguez declines to accept a lesser suspension, one that possibly carries him through the 2014 season. But A-Rod did not sound as if he is prepared to do so.
Rodriguez, who is scheduled to play seven innings Saturday for Trenton and then have a short workout Sunday, said he expects to play for the Yankees on Monday in Chicago unless he is "hit by lightning."
And if he's not allowed to join his team then?
"There's a lot of layers to this," Rodriguez said. "As I go, my job is to do everything I can physically and mentally to get back on the field to help my team win. As far as all the legal stuff, to me, it's been confusing. The one thing I've gotten from so many people, so many fans, some teammates -- they're like, what's going on?
"There's a lot of people that are confused. A lot of people that don't understand the process. There is a lot of layers. I will say this: There's 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."
When asked who that is, he said, "I can't tell you that right now. And I hope I never have to."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of A-Rod's comments: "I was not there, but if I had a chance to sit down and talk with him, I might talk to him about it, but I'm not there. I have to worry about the guys in this room. But our hope is to get him back."
What would he say? "I'd probably talk to him to make sure his head was OK and he was focused on playing baseball."
Yankees MLBPA player representative Curtis Granderson said of A-Rod's comments about the Yankees trying to get out of his contract: "If Alex feels that way, then Alex feels that way, and obviously he's going to have reasons for saying what he has to say, but you'd have to talk a little bit more to him about that to understand why he said that."
Rodriguez, whose health has been in dispute since he was put on the disabled list with a grade 1 quadriceps strain July 22, looked fine Friday night. He walked on five pitches in his first at-bat and then crushed a 2-and-0 fastball for a long home run, estimated at about 430 feet, in the third. He was booed in his first two at-bats but cheered loudly after the homer, which A-Rod stopped to admire before flipping his bat.
A-Rod, who struck out looking in the fifth and fielded two grounders in the game, said the thought of sitting out has not even entered his mind.
"I'm emotionally prepared to play for five more years," he said. "I'm excited the way my body's reacting, the way the ball is coming off the bat. I feel like I can play, and play for a long time -- and be very productive."
As for the idea of "hanging it up," he dismissed the notion.
"I'm not going to answer that question because it's not time for me to hang it up," he said. "I have a lot more fight in me. We have a process, and the process is not here yet."
With Erik Boland
in San Diego