A-Rod to face appeal 'head on'

HOUSTON -- With next season and possibly his career on the line, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is looking forward to the start of the appeal of his 211-game suspension for violating the joint drug agreement and the collective bargaining agreement on Monday.

"Let's get it on," Rodriguez said after manager Joe Girardi confirmed the third baseman would sit out the rest of the weekend games. "It starts on Monday. We've got to face it head-on."

Rodriguez and his team of lawyers will start the appeals process in front of the three-man panel at Major League Baseball's offices in Manhattan on Monday. The hearing is expected to take five days, and then the group is expected to decide within the next 25 days if it will either uphold, reduce or overturn the suspension.

A representative from the MLB Players Association and the commissioner's office join the independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz on the three-man committee. Horowitz is expected to cast the deciding vote.

Rodriguez, 38, called the entire process a "big burden," so he is happy to finally face it head on.

"I'll be there every day," Rodriguez said. "I'm fighting for my whole life, my whole legacy. I hope everyone is there."

Besides his image, there is a lot of money on the line. Rodriguez stands to lose nearly $32 million if the penalty is upheld. Each game is worth in the neighborhood of $154,000. His contract has four years remaining at a total of $86 million, which doesn't include a possible $30 million in home run bonuses. Rodriguez is just six home runs shy of tying Willie Mays' 660 home runs, which net him his first $6 million payment.

Rodriguez said he would like to find out Horowitz's decision for personal reasons, but also so the Yankees can better plan their offseason. Team owner Hal Steinbrenner would like the Yankees to drop their payroll under $189 million in 2014 to lower the team's luxury tax burden from potentially 50 percent to 17.5 percent, saving them tens of millions of dollars.

If Rodriguez's suspension is upheld, it will make it much easier for the Yankees to sign Robinson Cano and another free agent. If Rodriguez's $25 million salary for next year stays on the books, a source with knowledge of the team's thinking told ESPN New York that it would be extremely difficult for the Yankees to re-sign Cano and another free agent, such as Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann.

Rodriguez will finish the season batting .244 with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 44 games. His OPS was .771.

"I think when I was healthy, I was very, very good," Rodriguez said when asked to evaluate his season on the field. "After I got banged up a little bit in Baltimore, obviously not so good."

Rodriguez was hitting .301 with an .883 OPS on Sept. 10, the last game he played third base for the Yankees. With a strained hamstring and eventually a strained calf, Rodriguez only hit .093 in his final 43 at-bats as the team's every-day designated hitter. Rodriguez said he would have played these final four games if the Yankees were still in contention.

"If these were meaningful games to go to the playoffs, 100 percent I would be in there," Rodriguez said.

After coming back from hip surgery in August, Rodriguez thinks that he will be stronger if he can have a full winter to train. He plans on coming back a bit lighter, too.

"I'm really looking forward to at least one offseason of hardcore training," Rodriguez said. "I haven't had that in quite a long time, get myself in tremendous shape and come back and help this team win. This team has a lot of things it is going to do over the winter. Obviously, my situation is going to play a big part."

As for the last few months, Rodriguez said he had no regrets, except that the Yankees were not going to the playoffs.