NYY@BAL: A-Rod smashes a solo shot to even the score

HOUSTON -- Saying that he will be "fighting for my life and my whole legacy," Alex Rodriguez said that he is "excited" to begin his appeal of a 211-game drug suspension.

The appeal process of Rodriguez's suspension is scheduled to begin on Monday at Major League Baseball's offices in New York. Rodriguez said that he will be present for each day of the proceedings, and expects the appeal to last for five days.

"This has been a burden, a big burden. Let's get it on," Rodriguez said. "It starts on Monday. Better to face it head on."

Rodriguez can turn his attention to his legal situation because he said on Saturday that he will not play this weekend against the Astros due to lingering soreness in his legs. He thus completes a campaign in which he played in 44 games after returning from the disabled list in August.

"It's been one of the most challenging years of my career, without a doubt," Rodriguez said. "But I am proud of the way the team played and fought. I don't think anybody would have thought that we would have been playing meaningful games here on Sept. 24, 25. We gave it a good shot."

Rodriguez returned from hip surgery to complete the year batting .244 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. He said that he had struggled to adjust to duty as a designated hitter after sustaining hamstring and calf injuries in September.

"I think I was pleasantly surprised while I was healthy the first month," Rodriguez said. "I was able to move around well at third, drive the ball, improve my hitting against right-handed [pitchers], hit balls that are 95-plus [mph] -- all things I wasn't able to do the year before. Those things, you build on those. I look forward to immediately getting into the hardcore workouts to help this team win again."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Rodriguez should prepare this winter as a third baseman, and if his legs are healthy, Girardi believes Rodriguez can still be a force in the middle of the order. But it is uncertain when Rodriguez would actually be able to return to big league action; if the 211-game ban is completely upheld by independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, Rodriguez's 2014 season would be wiped out.

Horowitz also has the ability to reduce Rodriguez's suspension or nix it altogether. Rodriguez said that he would not discuss details of the case or his expectations for the appeal.

"Obviously, this is going to be a grueling process all the way through until it's completely over," Rodriguez said. "You'll hear the full story when the time is right for me. That time is not just now."

Huff to start over Kuroda in Yanks' season finale

BOS@NYY: Kuroda allows two runs over six, fans six

HOUSTON -- Hiroki Kuroda's final turn in the rotation could have come in Sunday's season finale, but the veteran struggled mightily down the stretch, prompting Yankees manager Joe Girardi to give the ball to David Huff instead.

Kuroda was one of the Yankees' most reliable pitchers through the first four months of the season, but his performance fell off in mid-August. Kuroda was 0-5 with a 6.80 ERA in his final seven starts of the year.

"He's thrown a lot of innings [201 1/3], and I've said that his sinker was not quite the same and his slider wasn't quite the same," Girardi said. "The first year we had him, it happened a little bit in April, the inconsistency, and then he really locked it in the rest of the year.

"And then this year, he came out great and it happened at the end of the year. It could be a combination of a lot of things: all the innings the last two years, fatigue, it could be a combination of a lot of things, but no one ever really knows."

Kuroda completed his second season with New York holding an 11-13 record and a 3.31 ERA in 32 starts. A free agent, Kuroda has said that he is unsure about his plans for 2014.

Bombers bits

• Girardi said that he has not had any contract talks with the club, but he expects to talk to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner "fairly quickly" about a new pact.

"I don't like things to drag out, I can tell you that," said Girardi, whose three-year, $9 million deal expires in November.

• On this date in 1923, the Yankees collected 30 hits in a 24-4 win over the Red Sox at Fenway Park, setting a single-game franchise record that still stands.