BOSTON -- Alex Rodriguez arrived at Fenway Park on Tuesday night thinking he would be in the Yankees' starting lineup as the designated hitter against the club's old nemesis, the Red Sox, in what turned out to be a 5-3 loss.
He wasn't. Instead, Rodriguez had a meeting with manager Joe Girardi, who informed him that he won't be in the starting lineup until Thursday night against Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright.
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Wright's velocity was one of the reasons Girardi gave for the decision. The other cut to the heart of the matter and is the reason this is the final road series of A-Rod's 22-year career.
"I came to the stadium hoping to play all three games, maybe two out of three," Rodriguez said. "[Girardi] just said, 'We're trying to win games.'"
The reality of what's happening is certainly surreal to the right-handed power hitter, who is four home runs shy of becoming the fifth player in Major League history to hit 700 and may not get an opportunity to do it.
"It's surprising and shocking," A-Rod said. "He has his opinion and I have mine. But as I've said since I came back from my suspension, it's up to Joe, and I'll definitely do what he wants."
Rodriguez never did get in the game, even though the crowd of 38,089 began chanting, "We want A-Rod, we want A-Rod," as a New York rally fell short against hard-throwing Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel and Matt Barnes in the top of the ninth.
Asked his reaction, Girardi said: "I don't know. I mean, how am I supposed to react? It's part of it. I'm sure I'm going to hear it. But I've got to do what I think is best."
Rodriguez will certainly play on Friday night against the Rays at Yankee Stadium, and before they play their next game, the Yankees will give A-Rod his unconditional release. He will then leave the team for his home in Miami. Whether Rodriguez plays again in another uniform is still very much up to question, although on Sunday, Yanks general manager Brian Cashman said he had received no inquiries about A-Rod from Major League Baseball's other 29 teams.
Cashman also said the Yankees will pay Rodriguez the remaining $27 million due on his contract through next season, during which he's expected to serve as an advisor and instructor for the club's younger players. And that could certainly change the equation. Any other team could sign A-Rod to a pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum for the rest of the season and give him a chance to hit those four homers.
"It would have been nice to have a shot at it," Rodriguez said, almost wistfully. "But it wasn't in the cards."
Of course, A-Rod hasn't hit a homer since June 18, and that's essentially why he's facing this dilemma.
"He has the right to change his mind," Girardi said. "He has the right to change his mind if he gets home and says, 'You know what? I want to keep going.' I'm not sure what's going to happen. This is hard for any athlete."
Rodriguez said that playing elsewhere, though, is currently not in his frame of reference.
"I don't have an answer right now," Rodriguez said. "I'm content with the way this week has gone down and appreciative. I've been overwhelmed by the emails and the texts and the phone calls I've been getting. And for a guy who screwed up so much, I feel very humble to be in this position."
That brings us back to these three games. Girardi said on Sunday that he would have a conversation with Rodriguez to determine where the 41-year-old veteran stood mentally before deciding on a plan of action for this series.
"That's a conversation I have to have," Girardi said. "If he wants to play in every game, I'll find a way. I have to talk to him. We need to sort through some of these emotions."
But evidently that conversation never took place. By the time the two talked, Girardi's decision had already been made. Entering Tuesday's game, the Yanks were still on the outskirts of the races for the American League East title and second Wild Card spot, seven and 4 1/2 games back, respectively.
Girardi said that it was an uphill fight, but he hasn't given up.
"My responsibility as the manager -- and we are still in this -- is to win games," Girardi said. "I will continue to do that."
Asked about his change of heart in the past two days, Girardi added: "I'm an emotional guy, and my heart can get tugged at. I think I got caught up in the emotions a little bit [Sunday]. I'm human. There's a human element to me. There's a human element to Alex.
"I'm not saying he won't play these next two days, that he won't be in there. But I'm trying to win games, and that's what I have to do. This is a very important series for us."
It's not as if this hasn't been the pattern of late. Since Rodriguez struck out four times in four at-bats in a loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field on July 31, he has had two fruitless pinch-hit appearances.
Rodriguez is 1-for-19 since leading off the second inning against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium on June 18 with his last home run. Even before Sunday's announcement, Girardi said he wasn't sure when he would play A-Rod again.
"I'm disappointed," Rodriguez said. "When I heard [Girardi] say that I could actually play in all four games, I was really excited to get some at-bats. We talked about it, and I told him I wanted to play on Wednesday and Thursday. I thought that would be a great way to end at Fenway. I don't know what happened."