NEW YORK (AP) — Alex Rodriguez will play his final major league game next Friday with the New York Yankees and then become a special adviser and instructor with the team.
Rodriguez and the club made the announcement before Sunday’s home game against Cleveland.
“This is a tough day. I love this game and I love this team,” he said, often choking up. “And today I’m saying goodbye to both.”
A-Rod will play against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium on Friday night before ending his career as one of the most prolific and polarizing figures in baseball history.
He was suspended for the entire 2014 season for performance-enhancing drug use.
The 41-year-old designated hitter, a three-time AL MVP and 14-time All-Star, is hitting .204 this season with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 216 at-bats. His worsening slump finally relegated him to the bench for most of the past month, with Rodriguez getting only one start and seven at-bats in 14 games since July 22 — he wasn’t in the starting lineup Sunday against the Indians.
“Of course I think I can play baseball. You always think you have one more hit in you,” Rodriguez said. “That wasn’t in the cards. That was the Yankees’ decision and I’m at peace with it.”
With Brett Gardner, Brian McCann and his teammates in attendance at a packed news conference, Rodriguez said he was thankful he’d get a few more at-bats in front of family and friends.
“We all want to keep playing forever,” Rodriguez said. “But it doesn’t work that way.”
When the fourth-place Yankees (55-55) traded veterans Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova leading up to last Monday’s trade deadline, they made it clear they were turning toward a youth movement.
Rodriguez has 696 home runs and trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the all-time list.
After Rodriguez’s last game, he will be unconditionally released by the club and he’ll go back home to Florida. He said he thought his off-the-field duties would begin at spring training next year in Tampa.
Rodriguez has a $20 million salary this year and is owed $20 million more in 2017, the final season of a $275 million, 10-year contract that was the baseball’s largest when he signed it. He’ll get that full amount.
“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,” Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement.
Said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman: “He’s always been a leader and mentor.”
Earlier this week, Rodriguez talked about his future without detailing what it would entail.
“No matter what happens, I’m at peace with myself,” Rodriguez said Tuesday.
“I think I can contribute. I think I can help out in the clubhouse,” he added, “but if not, I have two beautiful daughters waiting for me in Miami.”
On Friday, the Yankees called a news conference with 36-year-old first baseman Mark Teixeira, who announced he will retire at the end of the season.
Rodriguez helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series but had been in repeated controversy since he arrived ahead of the 2004 season in a trade with Texas.
He won his second and third AL MVP awards with the Yankees but has been a pariah for some since his 2009 admission he used performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas earlier in his career.
Starting in 2008, Rodriguez made six trips to the disabled list in six seasons for a strained right quadriceps (2008), right hip surgery (2009), a strained left calf (2010), right knee surgery (2011), a broken left hand (2012) and left hip surgery (2013).
Major League Baseball suspended him on Aug. 5, 2013, for the remainder of that season and all of 2014 for violations of baseball’s drug and labor contract caused by use and possession of numerous prohibited performance-enhancing substances and attempting to cover up his violations.
In his remarks Sunday, Rodriguez said he’s “been to hell and back.”
Rodriguez returned from hip surgery and played while appealing the suspension, and the following January an arbitrator cut the penalty to all of the 2014 season.
“He’s always had some ups and downs, but he’s always gotten back up,” Cashman said.
A-Rod made a successful return last year, when the Yankees made him a fulltime DH, but his offense slid late in the season and hit .224 from Sept. 1 on. That left him with a .250 average for the year with 33 homers and 86 RBIs.
His slump continued at the start of this season when he hit .185 with four homers and eight RBIs in April and .130 with two homers and six RBIs in May, when he was on the disabled list from May 4-26 because of a strained right hamstring. His average rose to .267 with two homers and 13 RBIs in June before dropping again.
Rodriguez started his big league career with Seattle in 1994 and signed a $252 million, 10-year contract with Texas before the 2001 season, the largest agreement in baseball history. When the Rangers decided to trade him, a proposed deal to Boston fell through before the trade to New York. He agreed to shift from shortstop to third base as part of the trade to the Yankees, who already had Derek Jeter at shortstop.
A-Rod opted out of the contract after the 2007 season, became a free agent and signed the $275 million deal with the Yankees.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.