NEW YORK -- For much of his life, all Alex Rodriguez has known is baseball. He made his Major League debut as a teenager, and 22 years into his career is on the doorstep of hitting his 700th career home run, a feat accomplished by three players.
But 2016 has been different. Rodriguez is no longer an everyday player, having been demoted from designated hitter to pinch-hitter amid prolonged struggles at the plate. He hit his last home run -- the 696th of his career -- July 18, and has had only 19 at-bats since. Recently, some reports have suggested the Yankees are considering releasing Rodriguez, something the 41-year-old insists he'd be "at peace" with.
"I'm one of the luckiest human beings on the planet," said Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star and three-time AL MVP. "I respect everything [general manager Brian] Cashman's doing. I trust [managing general partner] Hal Steinbrenner's plan. I forever will be a Yankees fan. I hope I can contribute here."
Rodriguez is hitting .204, and his most recent homer was one of two extra-base hits he recorded in July.
Manager Joe Girardi said he is still looking for opportunities to get Rodriguez into games. During Monday's 6-5 win over the Mets, Rodriguez got into the batter's box in the top of the 10th. But after Mark Teixeira singled to give the team runners on first and second, Girardi called back Rodriguez in favor of Ben Gamel since he wanted Gamel to bunt.
"Alex has meant a lot to me. You don't want to see any player go through struggles," Girardi said. "It's really hard. And to do it in a market like this it becomes even harder."
Still, Girardi said he probably doesn't foresee Rodriguez getting too many at-bats. On the heels of the Yankees' decision to deal Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltrán and Ivan Nova before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, the team hopes to give more opportunities to younger players.
It's a strategy Rodriguez said he welcomes.
"I'm a teacher at heart, so I love to be around young kids," Rodriguez said. "Whether it's me or another veteran player, it is important to have veteran presence to tap a guy on the shoulder the next day after he made a mistake and say, 'What were you thinking about that play, five minutes before, five minutes after?'"
Rodriguez is hardly the Yankees' only veteran hitter, though. Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Brian McCann and Teixeira all fit that mold.
Nevertheless, Rodriguez made a case for himself. While this year has been tough, he's been known to come back well from struggles.
"In '04 I was average, won the MVP in '05; in '06 I was average, then won the MVP in '07," Rodriguez said. "I have a history of coming back. It's been a tough year for me."
Rodriguez is signed through next season, and said he feels he can contribute if healthy and given a full offseason to train.
Girardi said he hasn't decided if Rodriguez will DH when the Yankees return home Wednesday, but he did mention that the team planned to make more changes. If those don't include Rodriguez?
"I have two beautiful daughters waiting for me in Miami," A-Rod said with a smile.