Showing little sign of the illness that KO'd him from a scheduled meeting with nemesis Major League Baseball Friday, Alex Rodriguez emerged from a black SUV Monday morning at 9 sharp, ready to resume his contentious arbitration hearing at baseball's Park Avenue offices, where his legal team opened its defense.

"Hi guys, how are you? I'm excited to get back in there," the embattled slugger said as a media throng trailed his every step into the 245 Park Ave. entrance.

Noticeably absent Monday was the roaring group of A-Rod supporters from the non-profit group, Hispanics Across America, who have gathered to cheer on Rodriguez during the first eight days of proceedings. Although a barricade was set up along Park Ave., there was nary a protester in sight.

HAA president Fernando Mateo told the Daily News that despite the no-show Monday, HAA is "still 100% behind A-Rod." Mateo said the group is "doing other things as well," but he lamented that it's also "getting cold" outside, even though it was in the 60s and sunny Monday morning. Mateo said HAA would be back Thursday, and that there would be a "big prayer vigil" held on Park Ave. that morning. "We'll have dozens of ministers outside praying," said Mateo. "We're not radical fanatics. We have to push back a little bit. But we're not turning our back on A-Rod. We're going to keep the pressure on (baseball commissioner Bud) Selig, (Yankees president Randy) Levine and (MLB COO Rob) Manfred and the whole Major League Baseball fiasco."

Another absentee Monday was Rodriguez's defense attorney, Joseph Tacopina, although he is giving closing arguments in a separate case.

Rodriguez was scheduled to meet with baseball officials Friday for a pre-testimony interview, after his attorneys signaled he would take the stand as part of his grievance to contest the 211-game doping ban he received from Selig Aug. 5. As part of baseball's collective bargaining agreement, MLB can interview A-Rod prior to any testimony.

But Rodriguez called in sick, and presumably Fredric Horowitz, the independent arbitrator in the slugger's case, will weigh in Monday on when Rodriguez would testify. The hearing is scheduled to run through this weekend and into early next week. Manfred is the MLB representative on the three-person panel hearing the case.

Rodriguez's lawyers are expected to call several witnesses, including a drug expert who is expected to raise the issue of why Rodriguez never tested positive if he took large amounts of banned substances, as well as Dan Mullin, the head of the unit which carried out the probe into the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic and its founder, Anthony Bosch.