Alex Rodriguez to play final major league game next Friday


NEW YORK | Ready or not, Alex Rodriguez’s career in pinstripes is coming to an end this week.

One of the most prolific players 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 home game against Cleveland.

“This is a tough day. I love this game and I love this team,” he said, often pausing or 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 on Friday night and then be released. New York will pay him the remainder of the approximately $27 million he’s still 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.

Relegated to little more than a spare part lately, the three-time AL MVP said “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.

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” in order to sign a contract that gives him a job working with minor leaguers throughout the Yankees’ farm system. That deal runs through Dec. 31, 2017, the team said.

A-Rod said he’ll go home to Miami following Friday’s game and he thought his new duties would begin during spring training next year. He thanked the Steinbrenner family for the opportunity to stay in baseball.

“We’re going to look forward to him impacting our younger players,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “He’s been a leader and a mentor.”

Cashman, however, acknowledged that Rodriguez has a right to change his mind and pursue any potential opportunity. And for his part, Rodriguez never used the word “retire.”

So, if another team offered him a chance to play, would he consider it?

“A lot’s happened the last 72 hours,” Rodriguez said. “You know, when Hal told me I just told him, ‘Give me a few days. I need to kind of think on this, sleep on it.’ I have not thought past the pinstripes, and my horizon is Friday. And, I haven’t thought much more than that.”

A 14-time All-Star, Rodriguez is hitting .204 this season with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 216 at-bats. His worsening slide finally landed him on the bench for most of the past month, with the designated hitter getting only one start and seven at-bats in 14 games since July 22.

He wasn’t in the starting lineup Sunday against the Indians.

With his teammates in attendance at a packed news conference, Rodriguez said he was thankful he’d get a few more at-bats in front of family and friends.

“We all want to keep playing forever,” Rodriguez said. “But it doesn’t work that way.”

New York manager Joe Girardi said he’d talk to Rodriguez about possibly playing this week in Boston before the team returns home.

“He’s earned the right for us to sit down and have a conversation,” Girardi said, later adding: “If he wants to play in every game, I’ll find a way.”

When the fourth-place Yankees (55-55) traded veterans Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova leading up to last Monday’s trade deadline, they made it clear they were turning toward a youth movement.

Rodriguez trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the career home run list.

Rodriguez has a $20 million salary this year and is owed $20 million more in 2017, the final season of a $275 million contract that was the largest in baseball when he signed it.

“After spending several days discussing this plan with Alex, I am pleased that he will remain a part of our organization moving forward and transition into a role in which I know he can flourish,” Steinbrenner said in a statement.

On Friday, the Yankees called a news conference with 36-year-old first baseman Mark Teixeira, who announced he will retire at the end of the season.

Rodriguez helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series but had been in repeated controversy since he arrived ahead of the 2004 season in a trade with Texas.

He won his second and third AL MVP awards with the Yankees but has been a pariah for some since his 2009 admission he used performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas earlier in his career.

Starting in 2008, Rodriguez made six trips to the disabled list in six seasons for a strained right quadriceps (2008), right hip surgery (2009), a strained left calf (2010), right knee surgery (2011), a broken left hand (2012) and left hip surgery (2013).

Major League Baseball suspended him on Aug. 5, 2013, for the remainder of that season and all of 2014 for violations of baseball’s drug and labor contract caused by use and possession of numerous prohibited performance-enhancing substances and attempting to cover up his violations.

In his remarks Sunday, Rodriguez said he’s “been to hell and back.”

Rodriguez returned from hip surgery and played while appealing the suspension, and the following January an arbitrator cut the penalty to all of the 2014 season.

“He’s always had some ups and downs, but he’s always gotten back up,” Cashman said.

A-Rod made a successful return last year, when the Yankees made him a fulltime DH, but his offense slid late in the season and hit .224 from Sept. 1 on. That left him with a .250 average for the year with 33 homers and 86 RBIs.

His slump continued at the start of this season when he hit .185 with four homers and eight RBIs in April and .130 with two homers and six RBIs in May, when he was on the disabled list because of a strained right hamstring. His average rose to .267 with two homers and 13 RBIs in June before dropping .

Rodriguez started his big league career with Seattle in 1994 and signed a $252 million, 10-year contract with Texas before the 2001 season, the largest agreement in baseball history. When the Rangers decided to trade him, a proposed deal to Boston fell through before the trade to New York. He agreed to shift from shortstop to third base as part of the trade to the Yankees, who already had Derek Jeter at shortstop.

A-Rod opted out of the contract after the 2007 season, became a free agent and signed the $275 million deal with the Yankees.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.