ST. LOUIS -- When Mark McGwire sat down in the Dodgers dugout at Busch Stadium to talk with reporters Monday, he joked that he hoped the first question would be about his return to St. Louis, where he played five seasons and was the hitting coach for three years.
But the focus was, instead, on the story that is reverberating throughout baseball. Major League Baseball on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season.
"I wish I was never part of it," McGwire said. "Just really hoping and praying that this is the end of it. Just everybody, especially the players, they don't want any more part of it. And let's just hope it's the end of it."
Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is set to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years.
Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
"It really doesn't matter what I think, I think it matters what the players think," McGwire said. "And what I hear every day in the clubhouse, they're just happy it's coming to an end, they're happy that Major League Baseball is taking care of it.
"I just hope it's over with. I just hope we don't have to sit here and talk about this anymore."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has a personal connection to Rodriguez, whom he knows from his time as a coach with the Yankees.
"I like Alex and I'd just like to see what the process ends up being. You never really know the whole story," Mattingly said. "I hate seeing anybody's name involved with it. It's disappointing. It was disappointing last year for Melky [Cabrera]. I loved Melky and really liked him as a player. It's disappointing when you see anybody's name that you know."
Chris Capuano, one of the Dodgers' player representatives, said the suspensions marked a good day for baseball.
"I think the vast majority of guys, any guy you talk to in here, is incredulous that guys would even try to get around it, because we get tested so often and because the tests are so sophisticated," Capuano said. "I think this is a good day. I think the guys that are cheating and trying to gain an unfair advantage are getting punished today."
Over the years, Capuano said he has noticed a shift in players' attitudes toward drug testing with most now overwhelmingly in favor of the league cracking down on the issue.
"I think once we got the testing procedures in place, guys kind of said, 'OK, it seems like it's fair now,'" Capuano said. "But then you had Melky Cabrera, Ryan Braun, you had certain guys, and all of a sudden, you got the sense that there are actually still guys trying to subvert the system, still trying to cheat to gain an advantage, and I think that outrage is a lot of guys who work hard and are trying to compete out here."
In wake of what he believes is another step in the right direction, Capuano said he could envision a future in which the cloud of drug use isn't lingering as strongly over the game.
"There's always people who are going to lack the integrity, there's always people that are going to try to seek an advantage," he said. "But with that, every time this happens, our testing gets more sophisticated, we learn about new ways people are trying to cheat, new methods, new substances, and it makes our testing that much stronger. I envision our testing procedures getting better and better along with this."
Hoping for Hanley's quick return, LA waits on MRI
ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers are holding off on an MRI exam for Hanley Ramirez, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is optimistic his shortstop won't miss much time with a jammed right shoulder.
"It's way better than yesterday, so that's good news," Ramirez said. "I just want to get the inflammation and the stiffness out of there right now and see how I feel after that."
Mattingly said the Dodgers intend to wait at least 24 hours before the MRI because the dye used to enhance the image could potentially increase swelling in his shoulder.
"He felt a whole lot better this morning," Mattingly said. "I think the good thing from our standpoint was [when] he had a similar injury this winter in the Dominican [Republic], he was hitting within four days. He feels like this is less than that. That's all we have to go by. His movement is a lot better today than yesterday, and we'll probably even know more by the end of the day."
Yasiel Puig felt good enough to return from a contusion on his left thumb suffered Saturday to start in right field for the opener against the Cardinals in St. Louis.
"He's in there, so obviously he's feeling a lot better," Mattingly said.
Matt Kemp said Monday his sprained left ankle is progressing well. Currently on the 15-day disabled list, Kemp is still using a walking boot, but said he is feeling better each day.
"Ankle injuries take time. That's what it's doing, it's taking time and hopefully I'll be back soon," Kemp said. "I just go on how I feel. If I feel good, I do more. If I don't, I back off a little."
Day after spot-start win, Fife optioned for Gordon
ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers optioned right-hander Stephen Fife to Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday, recalling shortstop Dee Gordon.
Fife was activated from the disabled list (right shoulder bursitis) Sunday to make a spot start against the Cubs so that the rest of the rotation could get an extra day of rest. Fife tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a win against Chicago.
"I'm not too stuck on anything, so whatever they decide, any way I can contribute is fine by me," Fife said. "I'm just trying to contribute in any way I can."
Fife is now 4-3 with a 2.47 ERA in nine starts with the Dodgers this season.
Gordon is batting .366 since July 14 in Triple-A games and leads the Pacific Coast League in stolen bases with 44. Although Gordon offers insurance at shortstop with Hanley Ramirez's status in question, manager Don Mattingly said he intended to recall the 25-year-old before Ramirez injured his shoulder.
Gordon was with the Dodgers from May 4-26 and batted .175 with a homer and five RBIs in 19 games.
McGwire returns to St. Louis for first time as visitor
ST. LOUIS -- Mark McGwire played 280 games in St. Louis, but it wasn't until Monday that he entered the visiting dugout. McGwire returned to Busch Stadium as the Dodgers' hitting coach for the first time since retiring as a Cardinal and serving three seasons as their hitting coach.
"It's always good to come back here," McGwire said. "I've never been in the visiting dugout, so it's been sort of weird to come back here and go the other way instead of making that quick right turn into the Cardinals' clubhouse. It's going to be four great games, four battles, like I've told the guys."
Although he's no longer working in St. Louis, McGwire has kept tabs on his former players from afar.
"I look almost daily to see how they're doing," McGwire said. "They're getting better and better, that's what I saw. John Mabry, excellent hitting coach. They' just haven't missed a beat. If anything, they're better, and that's a good sign."
McGwire said the current Dodgers, who entered St. Louis on a 14-game road winning streak, remind him of the 2011 Cardinals who won the World Series.
"We were just going through the season and had a lot of injuries, then a big trade. It took time, and all of a sudden, the team gelled together and look what happened, won a World Series," he said. "That's sort of the feeling that's happening here in L.A. That's a great feeling. Guys are putting things together."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.