Major League Baseball came down heavy Monday on the players it found to have been involved with the South Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis, suspending Alex Rodriguez through the end of the 2014 season and banning 12 others for 50 games, including three All-Stars: Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres and Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed with the news today," Rodriguez said at a news conference before Monday's game. "What we've always fought for is the process and I think we have that, and I think at some point we'll sit in front of an arbiter and we'll give our case. That's as much as I feel comfortable saying right now."
He called the past seven months a "nightmare."
"Probably the worst time of my life for sure," he said. "Obviously, for the circumstances that are at hand, and dealing with a tough surgery and a rehab program and being 38."
"I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to put on this uniform again and to play major league baseball again," he continued. "I feel like I was 18 years old back in Fenway Park in 1994 when I went in to face the Red Sox for the very first time. It's been 20 years ... very excited to get out there to play baseball and to help my team win and to prove to myself, my teammates, the fans of New York, the fans of baseball, that I still have a shot to play the game at a high level and I'm going to give it my best."
Asked if he denies using performance-enhancing drugs, he said: "We'll have a forum to discuss all of that and we'll talk about it then."
MLB commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement that Rodriguez's punishment will begin Thursday and cover the rest of the 2013 regular season, the 2013 postseason and the 2014 regular season. He explained that the suspension was allowed under the drug program's protocols and was based on Rodriguez's "use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years."
"Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation," Selig said in the statement.
Rodriguez's suspension is the equivalent of 211 regular-season games because he has 72 hours to inform baseball that he will appeal. His lawyer, David Cornwell, said Rodriguez would appeal and he would "pursue all legal remedies available to Alex."
Rodriguez will be allowed to play until his appeal is heard.
To that end, he had one hit in four at-bats as the struggling Yankees lost 8-1 to the White Sox on Monday night in Rodriguez's season debut. He also was relentlessly booed and jeered by Chicago fans, while being subject to chants of "Steroids! Steroids!"
"He's here, he's going to play," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "[The appeal] really doesn't change anything for us."
Girardi called the suspensions "another black eye for us, but we're trying to clean this game up.''
Monday's game was Rodriguez's first action of the season due to injuries.
"Under the terms of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, Rodriguez's suspension will be stayed until the completion of his appeal if Rodriguez files a grievance challenging his discipline," Selig said.
The Major League Baseball Players Association is prepared to support Rodriguez in his appeal.
Said MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner: "For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously."
The 12 other players agreed to deals for their suspensions in which they gave up the right to appeal. The other nine, in addition to Cruz, Cabrera and Peralta, are:
• Cesar Puello, Mets outfielder (minors)
• Fernando Martinez, Yankees outfielder (minors)
• Fautino De Los Santos, free-agent pitcher
• Jordan Norberto, free-agent pitcher
Beyond Rodriguez, the suspensions come with potentially stiff consequences for at least two of the players and their teams. Cruz, Cabrera and Peralta were each All-Stars this season, with Cruz's Rangers and Peralta's Tigers contending for playoff berths.
In a separate statement, Cruz said his punishment was a result of "an error in judgment," saying he had been seriously ill in early 2012 with a gastrointestinal infection called helicobacter pylori that went undiagnosed for more than a month.
"By the time I was properly diagnosed and treated, I had lost 40 pounds," Cruz said in the news release. "Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play. Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse. I am thankful for the unwavering support of my family, friends, and teammates during this difficult time. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Rangers organization, my teammates, and the great Rangers' fans, and I am grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team for the playoffs."
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the team was "open minded" about Cruz joining the playoff roster if they qualify for the postseason.
Cabrera struggled to control his emotions after admitting he took a banned substance. As he was promising fans that he would come back next year and play for them, he put his head in his left hand and cried.
Cabrera said he took a banned substance -- which he didn't identify -- for four days last year. He had dislocated a shoulder in 2011 in Triple-A and realized about two weeks before spring training began that it was only about 50 percent healed. It wasn't clear whether he took the banned substance just before spring training or after it had started.
"I was going through a very frustrating time," Cabrera said through the interpreter. "And like I said before, I made the decision to take this. I'm the one responsible for this. But I do want to make it clear I did not search for this. This was something that was presented to me. My former representation were the ones who introduced me to this person."
Cabrera said Juan Nunez, a consultant for ACES Inc., which was headed by brothers Sam and Seth Levinson, took him to meet Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch. When he met Bosch, "I was scared in my heart," Cabrera said. "I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do. It wasn't the best decision, and even when I went in that clinic, I felt scared."
Cabrera said Bosch told him it would be a long process, but that he just wanted a healthier shoulder. He said he received a package in Arizona. After taking the substance for four days, "I realized it wasn't necessary. My heart and my conscience was killing me."
The suspension will cost Cabrera $348,361 of his $1,275,000 salary.
Other players affected also issued statements. In his, Peralta said: "I take full responsibility for my actions, have no excuses for my lapse in judgment and I accept my suspension. I love the fans, my teammates and this organization and my greatest punishment is knowing that I have let so many good people down."
Bastardo also said he took "full responsibility for those errors."
The players' association made a late appeal to MLB for a deal for Rodriguez but was told there would be no more negotiations, sources told ESPN investigative reporter T.J. Quinn.
Rodriguez lost the support of the Taylor Hooton Foundation. The group fights performance-enhancing drug use by youngsters and was started by Taylor Hooton's family in 2004 after the player committed suicide following the use of anabolic steroids.
"We have had a good relationship with Rodriguez since early 2009 when we stood with him at his press conference in Tampa," the group said in a statement. "There, he issued his public mea culpa, committed that he would not be involved in the future with banned substances, and said that he wanted to help us to encourage kids to stay away from them. He offered to use his situation as an example to let them know that it is not right for them to use performance-enhancing drugs. Working together, we've delivered messages to thousands of kids and have impacted their lives in a positive way. But, today's announcement leaves us no option but to discontinue our relationship with Alex Rodriguez."
"I am very pleased that Major League Baseball has cleared my name," Gonzalez said in a statement. "With this process now complete, I have no lingering sense of animosity, as I quickly realized that the objective of this investigation was to clean up our game. This is an ideal that I share with both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. I would also like to acknowledge the unwavering support of my teammates, the Lerner Family, Mike Rizzo, Davey Johnson, our coaching staff and Nationals fans everywhere."
The Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera, Athletics' Bartolo Colon and Padres' Yasmani Grandal have already served 50-game suspensions for PED use and will not face additional discipline for Biogenesis, the league announced.
Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun was the first player to reach an agreement with MLB on a suspension for his connection to the Biogenesis case. The 2011 NL MVP accepted a season-ending, 65-game suspension last month.
The Yankees have said they expected Rodriguez to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, attempting to obstruct MLB's investigation and not being truthful with MLB in the past when he discussed his relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty two years ago to a federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs into the United States from Canada.
The team said they "recognize and respect the appeals process" in a statement, which went on to "address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees' role in this matter."
"The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez," the statement read.
The suspension caps a month-long period of suspicion, accusations and counter-accusations between Rodriguez, the Yankees and Major League Baseball, during which Rodriguez accused his team and the league of conspiring to void the remainder of his 10-year, $275 million contract, which runs through 2017 and under which the team is obligated to pay him approximately another $95 million.
Rodriguez's appeal will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. If the suspension is upheld and Rodriguez returns in 2015, he'll still have three years left on his Yankees' contract, worth $62 million.
Today is a sad day for MLB,the fans of this great game, and all players who may have been negatively affected by others selfishness...
— Evan Longoria (@Evan3Longoria) August 5, 2013
Ultimately, although today will be a day of infamy for MLB, it is a tremendous step in the right direction for the game we love.
— Evan Longoria (@Evan3Longoria) August 5, 2013
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews and ESPNDallas.com's Todd Wills was used in this report.