TAMPA, Fla. — Nope, not a chance.
Alex Rodriguez reported for duty at about 10:30 Tuesday morning as a Yankees spring training instructor and made it clear once, twice, three and four times that he will not be returning to the field in any other capacity.
When asked if perhaps he felt a little extra competitive juice and desire to play again by putting on a Yankees uniform, A-Rod said, “Zero.”
Even with the knowledge that at 696 homers he’d be a good month or so from reaching 700?
“I haven’t had those thoughts,” the 41-year-old said.
Maybe, he said, after playing his final game last Aug. 12, he considered playing again “for about a minute” as a few teams called to express an interest. Rodriguez declined to name the teams but said, “I was surprised that a.) they got my number and b.) there was any interest. I did hit .200.”
He said that in retrospect he all but “emptied the tank” in his successful return in 2015 — he hit a team-best 33 homers — after serving a season-long suspension in 2014.
All of his thoughts now, Rodriguez said, are on the next phase of his life. That includes his generally well-received and well-reviewed work as an analyst with FOX during last year’s postseason and his new role — though not completely defined — with the Yankees as special adviser to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
Rodriguez’s production and playing time already were dwindling when the Yankees went all out on their commitment to youth at last year’s trade deadline, dealing Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran for prospects. A-Rod, who had a .200/.247/.325 slash line, with nine homers, agreed to be unconditionally released Aug. 12 and to work for Steinbrenner.
A-Rod, who is getting $21 million this season for the final year of his contract, worked last fall with some prospects, including Gleyber Torres and Greg Bird, in the instructional league. He plans to be in Tampa through Thursday and said he’ll likely be back later in spring training.
Rodriguez was on the field shortly after noon when players went out to stretch. He spoke with Aaron Judge and Brett Gardner for a bit before having lengthy chats with Lee Mazzilli, a guest instructor, and bench coach Rob Thomson. A-Rod shared hugs and brief words with Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro and spent time at shortstop watching Donovan Solano, Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada take grounders.
Otherwise, he stood behind the batting cage chatting with general manager Brian Cashman, among others.
“To me,” Joe Girardi said, “his job is to instruct on the mental side and help the guys understand what they have to do physically.”
Said A-Rod: “I think my value for these kids is going to be taking them out to dinner and having a three-hour dinner.”
The primary message he already has started to impart is how to set yourself up for success amid the sometimes overwhelming expectations of playing in New York by adhering to a strict routine and focusing on conditioning.
Players need “a tireless work ethic and to have an incredible, maniacal routine,” Rodriguez said. “It’s so important, because you’re playing 200 games (counting spring training) in 232 days, and this is really a battle of discipline.”
Rodriguez, who in some ways was a casualty of the Yankees’ shift toward youth, is impressed with what has been stockpiled. He said it’s the most “young talent” he’s seen in the organization since he arrived in 2004.
“This,” he said, “is a tremendous opportunity this franchise has in front of us.”