Asked at a postworkout news conference if he was retired, Rodriguez said, “Yes, I am.”
Are there any competitive juices flowing?
Zack Wittman for The New York Times
“Zero,” he said.
“When you hit .200,” he added, referring to his batting average last season, “you wouldn’t want to pick up a bat, either. I do have one inside my locker — I’m sorry, in my office — and every once in a while, when I need to think better, I just grab that thing.”
Rodriguez, who was once impetuous and was always a good bet to say or do something outlandish enough to land him on the back pages of the tabloids, has largely displayed thoughtful consideration since his return from the drug suspension that cost him the 2014 season.
Rodriguez acknowledged that when the Yankees were pushing him out in August, shortly after his 41st birthday, there were many who thought the one final start that the Yankees honored him with at Yankee Stadium would not be enough.
Rodriguez, who had 696 career home runs, said he had received several offers to return and chase 700 home runs after his release (he declined to identify the teams). But he is content, he said, to remain in Miami, do broadcast work, be a parent to his two daughters and serve as an adviser to the Yankees, who are paying him $21 million this season, the last year of the 10-year, $275 million contract he signed as a player.
After his final game, he said, he flew the family home and briefly considered the offers that had come in.
“I called them back and just said, ‘No, thank you,’” he said. “I’m grateful, appreciative for the opportunity, but again, the pinstripes mean so much to me.”
While the transition into retirement is not always easy — Andy Pettitte showed up as a camp instructor in 2012 and a week later came out of retirement — Rodriguez has had plenty of practice navigating change in his career. He left Seattle as a free agent, learned to play third base when he was traded to the Yankees from the Texas Rangers, and became a full-time designated hitter after returning from his yearlong drug suspension.
While Rodriguez’s role within the organization will be clarified once he meets with Hal Steinbrenner, the managing general partner, he plans to be in camp through Thursday and then return for another three-day stint in mid-March. For decades, the Yankees have relished having alumni return as guest instructors; among those who have been in camp this year are Ron Guidry, Lee Mazzilli, Rich Gossage, Stump Merrill and the recently retired Nick Swisher.
As much as Rodriguez’s baseball acumen has been lauded — the hitting instructor Alan Cockrell said he would make a “phenomenal” hitting coach — his greatest asset to the Yankees may be his ability to counsel the team’s young prospects on how to handle success, failure and missteps in the New York news media maelstrom.
“When you’ve been through what he’s been, he understands the media scrutiny that he brought upon himself, and that can weigh on you from time to time,” Manager Joe Girardi said. “That can be extra noise that you don’t necessarily want to hear. He’s been through a lot in his life, but the one thing he’s always done is gotten up and fought his way back.”
The Yankees, having restocked their farm system, may have to go through some growing pains this season, as even Rodriguez suggested. He is eager to spend time with young players like shortstop Gleyber Torres, outfielder Clint Frazier and catcher Gary Sanchez.
“I think my value for these kids is going to be taking them out to dinner, a three-hour dinner,” Rodriguez said, “and the first hour and a half recognizing that they’ll probably be pretty nervous and pretty tight, and by the second half of that dinner, they’ll start asking real substantial questions. There’s so much that’s expected here in New York, and it’s so difficult to play in New York. And I think as staff mentors, that’s the best thing we can do, is get them ready for what’s expected, because it is a handful.”