Source: AP Exchange | MIKE FITZPATRICK
Ready or not, Alex Rodriguez will play his final game in pinstripes this week.
One of the most prolific hitters and polarizing figures in baseball history, the slumping slugger plans to take his final turn at-bat with the New York Yankees on Friday night and then become a special adviser and instructor with the team next year.
A-Rod and the club made the announcement before Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Cleveland.
“This is a tough day. I love this game and I love this team,” he said, often choking up. “And today I’m saying goodbye to both.”
The 41-year-old Rodriguez, who sat out the 2014 season while serving a performance-enhancing drug suspension, will play against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium and then be released following Friday’s game. New York will pay him the remainder of the approximately $27 million he’s owed as part of his $275 million, 10-year contract.
Rodriguez said the agreement arose out of conversations over the past few days with Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. The two met face-to-face more than once, and A-Rod said he asked for one more chance to play in front of a New York crowd.
Relegated to little more than a spare part lately, the three-time AL MVP acknowledged “the last four weeks have not been fun.”
“It’s been very painful and embarrassing to sit on the bench. It’s been awkward,” Rodriguez explained. “So from that sense I’m very happy that we found this solution.”
But he made it clear he still thinks he could contribute on the field.
“Of course, I think I can play baseball. You always think you have one more hit in you, or help the team win one more game, for sure,” said Rodriguez, who is four home runs shy of 700. “That wasn’t in the cards. That was the Yankees’ decision and I’m at peace with it.”
A news release issued by the club indicated Rodriguez will be released after “his final major league game” to sign a contract that gives him a job working with minor leaguers throughout the Yankees’ farm system. He will report directly to Steinbrenner, and the deal runs through Dec. 31, 2017.
A-Rod said he’ll go home to Miami following Friday’s game, and he thought his new duties would begin in spring training. He thanked the Steinbrenner family for the opportunity to stay in baseball.