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Girardi penciled in Rodriguez at third base and into the cleanup spot for the first game of this series against the White Sox and said, “It’s clear what the expectations are based on where I put him in the lineup.”

But that doesn’t really clear things up much, since the replacements for Rodriguez at third base so far have fewer homers than the Cubs pitching staff and were batting a paltry .215. And their salaries _ combined _ are pretty much tip money for A-Rod.

Whether his teammates expect more is hard to say. For the first time since the dawn of the steroid era, baseball players are starting to speak forcefully about the damage the cheaters among them have done to everyone’s reputation _ but only so much.

“I’m not surprised by the names,” Alfonso Soriano said. “It surprises me that people keep trying.

“God gave you the talent, so don’t try and be a superhero or something like that,” he added a moment later. “Play with the talent that God gave to you and see what happens.”

The problem with that, as with being a gunfighter back in the old West, is that somebody always comes along who’s younger and quicker on the draw. However many more seasons, or better ones, A-Rod hoped to wring out of those talents hardly matters now. He’s on his own, finally, for good and about to find out what a lonely feeling that can be.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.