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A-Rod in 'a good place' entering age-40 season

Yankees DH says he feels good, will play as long as his body lets him
MLB.com @BryanHoch

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez dangled his arms from the roof of the first-base dugout, poured a cup of water over his head and glanced out toward the Yankees' first batting-practice session of the budding season, allowing himself a moment of reflection.

There were loud cheers as Rodriguez charged up the steps toward home plate, smacking a few line drives around the park before jogging around the bases. Rodriguez said that he never could have imagined things turning out this way, and it's safe to say that he was not alone in that department.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez dangled his arms from the roof of the first-base dugout, poured a cup of water over his head and glanced out toward the Yankees' first batting-practice session of the budding season, allowing himself a moment of reflection.

There were loud cheers as Rodriguez charged up the steps toward home plate, smacking a few line drives around the park before jogging around the bases. Rodriguez said that he never could have imagined things turning out this way, and it's safe to say that he was not alone in that department.

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"I'm certainly enjoying it," Rodriguez said. "I know 2015 for me was in many ways a Cinderella season, and I don't take it for granted. To be able to wear a uniform at the age of 40, it's pretty cool."

A year ago, Rodriguez was returning from a drug suspension that cost him the 2014 season, reporting to camp intent upon keeping his head down and trying to eliminate distractions. Though he was welcomed in the clubhouse, the Yankees seemed to keep their distance.

At least, that was the case until they saw Rodriguez seem to do and say all of the right things, both on and off the field. He was more available to his teammates and what was once a litigious relationship with the front office has thawed -- helped, of course, by his team-leading 33 home runs.

"Overall, I just feel so much better coming into this year," Rodriguez said. "It's certainly liberating to come into this season not carrying all this luggage with me all offseason. I'm at ease, I'm in a good place, I've worked hard and my body feels good. I'm going to do exactly what I did last year: see ball, hit ball."

Tweet from @AROD: Feels like the first day of school! #locker #springtraining #yankees #mlb #lovemyjob #thankfulthursday pic.twitter.com/uGU4GczoPe

That's all the Yankees are asking. While Rodriguez said that he is "only on first base" in his comeback story, he did not mean it in the literal sense. Rodriguez carried a glove to the field during Thursday's workout, but that was mostly for self-defense while he chatted with guest instructor Willie Randolph.

Rodriguez seemed to take so well to life as a full-time designated hitter that manager Joe Girardi struggled Thursday to come up with a scenario where he might ask Rodriguez to play the field -- an extra-innings game where the bench has been emptied, perhaps, but nothing less.

"I think it's the feeling of the organization that to get the most out of him, it's best that we don't put him out there," Girardi said. "Physically, to keep him healthy, it's better just to have him as the DH."

That's fine with Rodriguez, who said that the Yankees feel as though they have "unfinished business" after falling in the American League Wild Card Game. He understands that his time to score another World Series ring is running short; his deal with the Yankees runs through 2017, when he will be 42.

Asked on Thursday if he could envision playing beyond 2017 or if this will be his final contract, Rodriguez wasn't prepared to look any further down the line than right here and right now.

"Coming into last year, I just really thought about one day at a time," Rodriguez said. "There was a lot of chatter about if I would make the team or not; I know we were talking about that last year at this time. At age 40 with two hip surgeries, I'm day to day. I plan to prepare hard and play as long as my body lets me."

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

New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez