The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez watches his third-inning grand slam off...

The Yankees' Alex Rodriguez watches his third-inning grand slam off Oakland's Trevor Cahill. (July 6, 2010) Credit: AP

SEATTLE - Despite how others may see it, Alex Rodriguez said there wouldn't be anything poetic about it if he reached the milestone here.

"No, my time in Seattle was terrific," said Rodriguez, who sat at 597 career home runs entering last night's game, the first of four against the Mariners, his first organization. "I really enjoyed my time over there."

Rodriguez, who hit 189 of his home runs with the Mariners from 1995-2000 (he hit 156 for the Rangers from 2001-03 and entered this series with 252 for the Yankees from 2004-10), is booed lustily at every road stop. But the reaction is particularly pointed in this city, where he once was showered with phony paper money during a return trip.

Still, the reaction wherever Rodriguez hits his 600th homer - unless it's Yankee Stadium - probably will be mostly negative. That, of course, is a result of Rodriguez's massive contract and his 2009 admission of steroid use, among other things.

After hitting two homers Tuesday in Oakland, Rodriguez said 600 enters his mind only when the Yankees are home and he can see his career total up on the scoreboard. "Definitely at home because everywhere I go, people are always asking about it," Rodriguez said. "You see it on the Jumbotron every game and it's hard to ignore it."

If he doesn't hit the milestone homer here, there's a decent chance it could come at home, as the Yankees play nine straight at home after the All-Star break.

At the start of a six-game West Coast trip June 21 in Arizona, Joe Girardi said he hates milestones because of the potential distractions they create.

Of course, at the time, Rodriguez had been stuck on 591 homers since June 3. And although he didn't go on a power tear on that trip, he did hit three homers in that span and has demonstrated far more power in recent weeks.

"There's been no setbacks going back to the Mets [June 18-20] and Arizona," Rodriguez said of the tendinitis in his right hip flexor that caused him to miss four games from June 11-June 15. "I think every day it's been an improvement and that's what I was looking for once we got the good news from Colorado."

Meaning from his surgeon, Dr. Marc Philippon, who said the tendinitis is unrelated to the hip on which he performed surgery in March 2009.

"He's getting healthier and more consistent with his swing," general manager Brian Cashman said. "With that he's become more confident and more productive."

And even when he wasn't hitting home runs, he still was producing. Entering last night, A-Rod ranked third in the American League with 67 RBIs, six behind the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera. "He's more than a home run hitter," Girardi said.

Nonetheless, at 597 and counting going into last night, the focus is and will continue to be on 600.

"I'm looking at 600 like first base," Rodriguez said. "You definitely want to run right through it and use it as a platform and a springboard for more to come."

"I don't know where the ceiling is," Girardi said. "It's hard to say. A lot of it is going to depend on how healthy he stays the rest of his career. That has a lot to do with it. I don't know where the ceiling is. It's high, though."

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