Alex Rodriguez will play the final game of his career Friday at Yankee Stadium and will then be unconditionally released by the Yankees.
Rodriguez will then become a special advisor and instructor with the Yankees through the end of the 2017 season. In his new role, he will report to team owner Hal Steinbrenner.
“This is a tough day. I love this game, and I love this team.
And today, I’m saying goodbye to both,” Rodriguez said, pausing several times to collect his emotions, at a press conference Sunday morning at Yankee Stadium. “This is also a proud day. I was 18 when I broke into the big leagues. I never thought I could play for 22 years. At 18, I just wanted to make the team.
“Saying goodbye may be the hardest part of the job, but that’s what I’m doing today.”
Rodriguez said Hal Steinbrenner initiated a series of conversations earlier this week to hammer out the terms of his release from the team. Rodriguez suggested he didn’t want to leave the active roster, but was “at peace” with the transition.
Asked if he received an ultimatum from the Yankees to take this offer or be released immediately, he said: “I don’t think the conversations ever got that strong or aggressive. They didn’t need to.”
Rodriguez shed tears when thanking his mother and daughters for their love and support.
Rodriguez said he asked for one more game in the Bronx, which is why he’ll play Friday. He will then leave the team, going home to his family in Miami, and expects to assume his new duties in spring training.
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. “Alex has already proven to be a willing and effective mentor to many players who have come through our clubhouse, and I am confident that this next phase of his baseball life will bring out the best in Alex and the next generation of Yankees.”
Among his roles will be addressing some of the organization’s younger players and telling them he’s been “to hell and back and made every mistake in the book.”
“I want to thank the Steinbrenner family for giving me this opportunity and making me part of this team,” Rodriguez said. “And giving me an opportunity to stay involved and mentor the next generation of Yankees.”
Rodriguez has roughly $27 million owed to him on his landmark 10-year, $275 million contract that ends after next season.
“He gets everything he deserves, the contract he negotiated in full force,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “Every aspect he’s owed will be paid.”
Rodriguez’s march to 700 homers has slowed to a crawl and he’s stuck on 696, which ranks fourth all-time.
After a surprising revival in 2015, when he finished with 33 homers, Rodriguez has struggled throughout this season.
The part-time DH hasn’t even played against left-handed starters, pinch-hit or been in the lineup against pitchers he’s previously done well against — leaving him without much of a role.
He acknowledged how ugly the last few weeks have been.
“It’s been very painful and embarrassing to sit on the bench,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been awkward.”
Rodriguez came to the Yankees in 2004 after Aaron Boone suffered an offseason knee injury and the Yankees needed a third baseman. Rodriguez shifted from shortstop to third when he got to the Yankees. He won two AL MVP awards and was a key member of the 2009 World Series team.
During Sunday’s press conference, Cashman took off his 2009 World Series ring and put it on the table: “That doesn’t come along to this franchise’s trophy case without Alex Rodriguez,” Cashman said.
Rodriguez also was suspended by MLB for 162 games in 2014 for his involvement in the Biogenesis PED scandal after undergoing hip surgery.
What does the future hold beyond this choreographed Yankees exit? A cameo with another team? Broadcasting?
“A lot’s happened in the last 72 hours,” Rodriguez said. “I have not thought past the pinstripes.”