Alex Rodriguez reacts after flying out in the fourth inning...

Alex Rodriguez reacts after flying out in the fourth inning of a game against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. (Aug. 5, 2013) Credit: Getty

CHICAGO -- Perhaps the day's most honest moment came four hours before first pitch in the media-packed hallway near the Yankees' clubhouse.

"This isn't a distraction to our game,'' reliever Boone Logan said, dripping sarcasm, as he scanned the phalanx of cameras and reporters.

They were there to capture the clubhouse entrance of Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended yesterday by Major League Baseball for 211 games but was in the lineup last night for his season debut as he prepares to appeal.

The moment arrived about 10 minutes later at 3:15 p.m., as A-Rod came whizzing past in a golf cart after being dropped off at the park by a friend. Rodriguez stepped out of the cart several feet from the clubhouse entrance and quickly went inside.

From there, the night played out not entirely unpredictably. Rodriguez, in a jammed news conference, didn't say much of anything, declining to answer even the direct question about whether he used PEDs during the time period MLB alleged.

He got a bloop single his first time up but went 1-for-4 as the Yankees lost, 8-1, to the last-place White Sox, who had lost 10 in a row and 13 of their last 14.

Afterward, A-Rod said he hopes to only talk baseball from here on out. Good luck with that.

"It was a hard day today, that's for sure, a long day," he said. "I felt pretty good. From this moment on, I want to focus on baseball and play every game like it's do-or-die."

Andy Pettitte (7-9, 4.71 ERA) allowed 11 hits and seven runs, all earned, in 22/3 innings. Pettitte has given up at least one first-inning run in his last seven starts. If not for the A-Rod circus, Pettitte's struggles, along with the rest of the team's, would be a much bigger story.

The attention in that department -- the Yankees (57-54) have lost 12 of 18 and are 27-36 since their high-water mark of 30-18 -- will come soon enough.

"It's a bad way to start the series," Joe Girardi said. "We have to start playing better. There's no doubt about it."

Pettitte used the word "frustrating" a handful of times in describing his performance, sounding disgusted in doing so.

"It's just everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong right now," he said. "We're going through a tough time right now and we needed a good start from me. It's hard to swallow right now. But we have a lot of season left and we have to grind through this."

How much season A-Rod has left ultimately will be left up to the arbitration process. In the meantime, he'll likely face more of the type of reaction -- on the road for sure -- that he did Monday night.

Of course, that's really not much different from the road greetings he's gotten for the last decade-plus.

When A-Rod was introduced to the crowd Monday night, both in the announcement of the lineups and before his first at-bat, he was soundly booed (though a smattering of cheers from some Yankees fans could be heard).

As he stepped into the batter's box in the second, a large sheet with "A-Roid'' handwritten on it could be seen near the leftfield foul pole. Another fan held up a sign with "211'' written on it.

In that at-bat, Rodriguez, batting cleanup and starting at third, looked at two pitches -- both balls -- from lefthander Jose Quintana. On the third pitch, he blooped a single to left.

"I thought he looked OK," Girardi said. "I thought he moved OK . . . His swing looked more explosive to me."

In his next at-bat, with one out in the fourth, he flied out a few yards short of the track in center. Rodriguez, who looked a step slow in the field, flied out just short of the track in left for the second out of the sixth. In the eighth, he struck out looking.

So did the day go about as well as could be expected?

"I don't think there's a 'well' in any of this situation," A-Rod said. "I just hope that there's a happy ending somewhere there. But as far as the game, which is what I'm going to focus from now on and all I'm going to talk about, we have some important games coming up. It's good to see the guys, and see what's going on here, talk about what we need to do. We need to get to the playoffs."

Asked about the autograph-signing he did for fans, he replied, "Look, I don't think anybody -- no matter how much you like or dislike -- I don't think anybody wants to see anybody suffer. I think the fans want what's best for the game. Hopefully we can take a pause from all of this and concentrate on baseball.''

With David Lennon

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