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A-Rod credits Girardi as integral to resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS -- The schedule dictates that Alex Rodriguez will celebrate his 40th birthday in Arlington, Texas, a place that holds some significance as one of his former big league haunts. Yet no matter where the Yankees slugger travels this year, he believes that he is in a good place.

Rodriguez said that he plans to have his daughters and some friends fly in for a gathering with his teammates after Monday's game. One day removed from the fifth three-homer game of his career, Rodriguez said on Sunday that he has no worries about embracing the big four-oh.

"I think all of that happened for me last year," Rodriguez said. "It was a good time for me to pause and just get a full understanding of making smart choices and surrounding myself with good people, and really appreciating everything that baseball and life has to offer."

As such, Rodriguez said that he had no questions when his name was not in the lineup for Sunday's series finale at Target Field. He has placed his trust in manager Joe Girardi, who explained that he'd rather have Rodriguez rested to see left-handed pitching in Texas and give Mark Teixeira a half-day at designated hitter.

"I think Girardi has been a big part for me," Rodriguez said. "A lot of people don't know this, but he stayed in touch with me throughout the year last year and that meant a great deal to me. He also was always very encouraging and helped me a lot with my offseason regimen."

Girardi is loyal to his players, but the manager found that to create an awkward situation in 2014 as Rodriguez served his season-long drug suspension and engaged in litigious battles with Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and the Yankees.

"My job is to get the best out of the player and the most out of the player, and that's what I try to do," Girardi said. "It is sometimes a fine line because I am considered management, but I deal with the players on an everyday basis and I think it's different."

Girardi said that he and Rodriguez have enjoyed an open and honest dialogue since "probably the second year I was here [in 2009]," noting that "I think it takes time to earn players' trust and for them to understand you, and you to understand them."

That is why, at least outwardly, Rodriguez did not complain when the Yankees turned him into a full-time DH. Rodriguez credits the role for helping to keep his body fresh and create opportunities for performances like Saturday's three-homer show.

"That's one of the things I've been most pleasantly surprised [about], is how I've been able to feel pretty good day in and day out, and been able to be in the lineup nightly," Rodriguez said. "I think the year off is a big credit to that."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.
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