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Hal Steinbrenner says Alex Rodriguez was not given ultimatum

New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner stops to

New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner stops to talk to reporters before attending a meeting of Major League Baseball's executive committee during the owners' meetings, Wednesday, May 18, 2016, in Manhattan. Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

Alex Rodriguez was not pressured to end his playing career with the Yankees and accept an advisory role with the organization, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said Monday in an interview on Michael Kay’s radio show. Rodriguez is scheduled to play his last game with the team Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

“It was not an ultimatum, it was an option,’’ Steinbrenner said. “And I gave him some time to think about it and he did and he thought it was best for him. There just wasn’t any more conversation about what was going to happen if or if not.’’

Asked what would have transpired had Rodriguez not accepted the new role, Steinbrenner said, “If we’re going to talk about hypotheticals, I guess I would say if he had come back and said, ‘I really don’t think this is for me,’ I’d have to sit down with [Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman] and discuss all options, including keeping him on the roster and playing him when thought he could contribute.’’

Steinbrenner said the idea of Rodriguez remaining in the organization to mentor minor-leaguers came from assistant general manager Jean Afterman. “It was an idea that I thought had a lot of merit . . . Didn’t really know where Alex was at that point. I mean, we had spent so much time, Cash and I, on all those people with trades, really until last Monday when the trade deadline came and went, there wasn’t much time to think about anything else, but as that came and went, we started thinking about the next six to eight weeks with the roster and the team.

“Obviously, there were a lot of stories in the media about Alex, things were heating up. I mean, I just thought it was time when I got up there Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning that I reached out and we tried to sit down together and talk, which we ended up doing on Wednesday.

“There’s only two things in the meeting that I wanted to convey. The first thing was that it’s been great having him here the last two years. I mean, he had a good year on the field last year. He did great things helping Didi last year. He’s doing the same thing for Castro and other players as well. I also wanted him to know my family had a lot of respect for him for what he’s accomplished in his career and for all the work, the years he’s been with us, that he’s done with a lot of young players, and that in no way, shape or form did I want to see him be embarrassed.

“So that was really one, and two was I just wanted to have an honest conversation with him and convey to him kind of where we’re going the next two months, that we’re going to start to bring up young players. I talked to him about the Beltran trade that the primary reason for me that it made sense was that it created an avenue to start bringing up guys that really deserve a chance . . . I just wanted him to know that with that happening, you know in all likelihood it’s not going to mean that he’s going to be getting more at-bats. It might have it mean that he’d be getting less at-bats. In other words, I just didn’t want him to think that Carlos’ departure necessarily meant that he’s going to be getting a lot more playing time, because it’s time for the kids. We’re absolutely insistent on starting to bring them up, see what they’re made of and hopefully that they contribute. He understood that. He understood that. There’s no white flag as far as I’m concerned.’’

Those familiar with Rodriguez’s thinking have hinted that he still might want to play for another team. “That was not discussed, either,’’ Steinbrenner said. “It seems to me like he’s made his decision. If something like that comes up, I will sit down with him face-to-face again and talk about it.’’

Steinbrenner also was asked if Rodriguez eventually will be honored in the Stadium’s Monument Park. “That is a bridge to cross when I come to it,” he said, ESPN reported on its website. “But he has done a lot for this organization, and it hasn’t just been on the field. I’m talking about players way back, like Cano. He was a mentor, too. He has done a lot for this organization on the field, but also off the field that a lot of people don’t know about. He has been a great leader and he’s been a great mentor.”

The Yankees have retired 18 numbers, and 34 former players have plaques. The only Yankees to have monuments are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Miller Huggins, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. It is widely believed that Derek Jeter will join that group in the future.

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