NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez stepped into the batting cage, three hours before gametime at Yankee Stadium. A coaching assistant pitched to him, a bullpen catcher retrieved the balls.
Other than that, he was all alone Friday. Not a single teammate from the New York Yankees was on the field as A-Rod started to swing away. He was by himself, once again.
It was sure to be louder Friday night when Rodriguez played at home for the first time since last October. With his 211-game suspension on appeal, Yankees fans were set to render their verdict on the man at the center of baseball's latest drug scandal.
Bronx cheer or big ovation?
"I'm not so sure how it's going to go," manager Joe Girardi said before the Yankees hosted Detroit, adding he hoped "it's not personal."
Neither was Daniel Correa.
A Yankees fan from Hartford, Conn., he stood in line to get into the stadium before the doors opened. Wearing a pinstriped No. 13 jersey, too.
"Hopefully, it's a positive reaction for him," Correa said. "But New York is a rough crowd."
Correa said he also owns a Derek Jeter jersey, and decided to go to wear Rodriguez's number.
"I'm disappointed in him, but he plays for my team, the Yankees, and you've got to support him," he said.
Rodriguez, meanwhile, didn't talk to the media before the game. He rearranged two boxes in his locker before heading out the clubhouse door, not pausing to talk with any of the Yankees, and quickly got to work.
Rodriguez later kidded with star second baseman Robinson Cano near the indoor batting cage and stretched with the rest of the team in the outfield. Wrapped up, he signed a couple dozen autographs, posed for pictures and chatted with fans.
Out beyond the All-Star break while recovering from hip surgery, the three-time AL MVP made his season debut Monday night in Chicago against the White Sox, hours after Major League Baseball suspended him through the end of the 2014 season. He can play until there's a decision on his appeal — likely after the season.
Rodriguez heard loud boos during his three games at U.S. Cellular Field. The 38-year-old third baseman hit three singles in 11 at-bats without driving in a run or scoring one for the wobbling Yankees.
Rodriguez was ready to bat fifth against the AL Central-leading Tigers. He was certainly the star attraction — he was the focus of a story on Detroit's clubhouse television, and a few players watched.
"Alex is a hot topic," Girardi said.
He certainly was a lightning rod among fans. Michael King, a Yankees rooter from Knoxville, Tenn., said he'd gotten tickets to this game a couple of months ago. He came wearing a No. 3 jersey, honoring Babe Ruth.
"I wasn't planning on seeing Rodriguez, I thought he wouldn't be here," King said. "I think it'll be more boos than cheers for him tonight."
"I think it'll be louder than in Chicago. The fact that he lied about it, that's why," King said. "Facts are facts."