TRENTON – The stage is set, the
fans are ready to pack the stands and the weather forecast calls for nothing
but mid-80s and sunshine. Everything is in place for the Thunder’s most
talked-about event since Roger Clemens tuned up here six seasons ago.
This time, however, there’s a
chance the star of the show never makes it back to the Bronx.
As he works his way back from a
mysterious quad injury that he and a rogue doctor insist never happened, Alex
Rodriguez is poised to make his second rehab appearance this season with the
Thunder. He played two games with the team in Reading two weeks ago, then moved
up to Triple-A for a few games before the quad allegedly started barking.
That led to another nasty, public
spat between the embattled superstar and his employer, followed by more rehab
work in Tampa, which culminated on Thursday with a simulated, media-shielded
game at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The next step is two games on
Friday and Saturday at Arm & Hammer Park against – yep, Reading – this
weekend as Rodriguez tries to get back on the field for the first time since
the Bombers fell to the Tigers in last year’s American League Championship
The only problem, of course, is
the little matter of the massive suspension hovering over Rodriguez. Reports
have seemed to shift by the day, but the latest word had the slugger and his
advisors trying to negotiate a possible lifetime ban down to something more on
the order of 100-200 games.
While that sorts itself out,
Thunder manager Tony Franklin said he and his team were only focused on the
game and playoff race ahead.
"It's baseball as usual for us,'' Franklin said prior to
Thursday's series finale against Harrisburg. "There is a lot surrounding
Alex, as there was last time, but we are at the point where we know what we
have to do and that is come 7:00. We have to
go out there and play. I know it could be a last-minute decision, but it's not
that big of a deal to me.''
Under normal circumstances, a
first offense under the Joint Drug Agreement would trigger a suspension of 50
games. This being A-Rod, however, means the circumstances are anything but
Major League Baseball says it has
enough evidence to prove that Rodriguez obstructed the league’s investigation
into his involvement with the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic in Florida, which
allegedly provided performance-enhancing drugs to a host of ballplayers. Those
found in the notes of clinic head Anthony Bosch include Rodriguez, Brewers
outfielder Ryan Braun, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Rangers outfielder
Nelson Cruz, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Mariners backstop Jesus
Both Cervelli and Montero are
Adding a little more intrigue –
if that’s possible – is the starter on the hill for Reading. That would be
Jesse Biddle, the Phillies’ top pitching prospect and an alumnus from this
year’s Futures Game.
Because of his appearance in the
annual midsummer showcase – held this year at Citi Field – Biddle wasn’t on
turn for Rodriguez’s first appearance against the Fightin Phils. Presented with
the possibility at his Futures Game locker, however, Biddle said he definitely
wanted a crack at the man with more than 600 home runs to his name.
“I would love to face
A-Rod, obviously,” Biddle said. “He’s a future Hall of Famer. You want to pitch
against those guys. You want to see how you do. You want to see how you stack
up. I’m not going to pitch to contact — I’m going to try to strike him out.”
Unless Major League
Baseball does it first.