NEW YORK -- NEW YORK - Alex Rodriguez returned to Yankee Stadium for his first home game of the 2013 season, four days after Major League Baseball announced its intention to suspend Rodriguez for 211 games in the wake of its investigation into the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.
A near-capacity crowd and legions of media braved a 47-minute rain delay to greet the embattled third baseman, who is playing while he appeals the suspension.
"It's something we're used to," said manager Joe Girardi of all the attention. "Are there more people in the clubhouse? Yes. But our players are used to that, because we do have a lot of coverage on a daily basis"
Rodriguez received a roaring mix of cheers and boos from the crowd upon his pre-game introduction, again when the Yankees defense was announced, and once more during the traditional Yankee Stadium "roll call," during which fans in the right-field bleachers chant the names of every Yankee on the field until that player acknowledges them.
"The fans are going to react the way they react," Girardi said before the game. "They buy the tickets, and that's part of it.
"The only thing that you hope is that when you walk into a ballpark -- whether you're at home or visiting a ballpark -- it's not personal."
Rodriguez laughed with teammates while he stretched in the outfield before the game and signed autographs for a group of fans behind home plate after batting practice, but did not address the media.
By the time Rodriguez stepped to the plate with a runner on second base and two out in the bottom of the first inning, those booing seemed to have tired. Many in the crowd stood and applauded the veteran third baseman. But when Rodriguez struck out against Tigers starter Rick Porcello to end the inning, the jeers returned.
Girardi said he was not surprised at the amount of attention Rodriguez has garnered since his return from offseason hip surgery on Monday.
"Because of who he is, and the contract that he has, no matter what the circumstances were, I think we'd still be dealing with this," he said. "Alex is a hot topic. He was a hot topic before (the scandal) because of the contract, and I think sometimes that brings a lot of this on him. Because people always want players to live up to the expectations, and sometimes that's not even possible.
"He was a hot topic last year, and like I've said, it's not something that he's not used to and that we're not used to."
Despite the return of Rodriguez and outfielder Curtis Granderson, who missed most of the first four months of the season with forearm and finger injuries, the Yankees have struggled of late.
The club returns home riding a four-game losing streak and losing ground in the American League East. The Yankees sat one game over .500 entering play Friday, and Girardi said he did not think the return of Rodriguez had in any way overshadowed his team's poor play.
"I'm well aware of where we're at, and that is the story to me," Girardi said. "These guys are capable of playing much better."
The manager added that he has been pleasantly surprised by Rodriguez's swing.
"I think his swing has been a little bit more explosive than I thought it might be," he said. "You never know how a guy's going to react off his second hip surgery. Honestly, he's just missed a few balls. He's squared up a few balls. I'm pleased with how his lower half is working."
Rodriguez had three hits in 11 at bats heading into Friday's action. The 37-year-old third baseman hit .272 with 18 homers and 57 RBI in 122 games last season.
Girardi has emphatically stated the need to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from baseball, but said he did not have any philosophical problem with using Rodriguez in his lineup until and if his suspension takes hold.
"He is allowed to play during his appeal," he said. "So he's playing under the rules of the game. And you deal with that. For me, because of what has been negotiated between the players and Major League Baseball, I'm OK with it."