ARLINGTON, Texas - Alex Rodriguez put up impressive, unexpected numbers as a 39-year-old, and that continued Monday night -- the night of his 40th birthday -- in the Yankees' 6-2 win over the Rangers.
After hitting his 24th homer of the season -- which projects to close to 40 over 162 games -- the DH with the PED-checkered past was asked if he thinks there are "people out there" wondering if he's playing "clean."
"I can't tell you what people are thinking, but I am [clean] and I'm happy about it," said Rodriguez, who was suspended for the entire 2014 season. "I'm in a good place."
A-Rod certainly is on the field. His solo shot in the sixth inning, a line drive to rightfield, tied him with Mark Teixeira for the team lead in homers and gave him 59 RBIs, second to Teixeira's 65.
His club isn't doing too badly, either. The AL East-leading Yankees (56-42) -- who got three hits and a career-best four RBIs from Didi Gregorius and five solid innings from Ivan Nova (who said his right arm felt "fatigued" but that he wasn't in pain) -- moved a season-best 14 games over .500 and improved to an MLB-best 15-5 in July. The Yankees lead the Orioles and Blue Jays by seven games.
With the Yankees leading 3-2 in the sixth, Rodriguez lined a 3-and-1 fastball from lefthander Matt Harrison over the rightfield fence, which allowed him to join Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield as the only players to homer at age 18 and at age 40, according to Elias. Also according to Elias, he became the oldest Yankee to homer on his birthday. Lou Piniella and Tim Raines, both 37, were the previous record-holders.
Of A-Rod's 18 hits this month, nine are homers. He's homered on his birthday six times.
"When you play for a long time, these things [the birthday homers] just add up," he said before leaving for his birthday celebration. "But it is nice. It is a great gift when you have family here. I'm going to celebrate a little bit with my teammates, my [two] daughters are here. A great win, and the home run is just icing on top."
A-Rod talked extensively before the game about turning 40 and was asked a question that he pondered for several seconds. He even complimented it before attempting an answer.
The question: What would the 40-year-old Alex tell the 20- or 30-year-old Alex? "That's such a great question," he said.
"I am in no position to give anyone advice, including myself. There was a point and a time for me that hitting home runs and being a great baseball player was all that mattered. And I figured that by hitting home runs, it would justify whatever behavior I had off the field, and I realize today that it is not that way at all."
As for PED testing, commissioner Rob Manfred said during spring training that A-Rod would be treated the same as anyone else found in violation of the Joint Drug Agreement.
"The program requires more frequent testing for players who are coming back after a suspension," Manfred said.
According to Section III of the JDA, any player found in violation is subject to "six unannounced urine collections and three unannounced blood collections over the twelve months following the violation that resulted in the follow-up testing, and six unannounced urine collections and three unannounced blood collections in every subsequent year in the Player's career during which he is on a Club's 40-man roster."
Coincidentally, MLB testers were in the Yankees' clubhouse before the game, though it wasn't clear who was being tested. The sight of them in any big-league clubhouse is not unusual.
A-Rod mostly has deflected those kinds of questions this season, though he ended up addressing them twice Monday -- once before the game and once after.
Before the game, while answering a question about his expectations for himself the rest of the season -- compared to the entire spring training and early part of the season, when he consistently said, "I don't know what to expect" -- A-Rod referenced his PED past.
"I thought April would be my most challenging month, and as I started getting more repetition, hopefully I would get better, and I think that's happened," he said. "I hope that continues. I am going to continue to work hard and go through my regimen, but it's also a nice reminder to me that if you play clean and you work hard, that good things can happen."