NEW YORK — Calling it a "tough day" but also a "proud" one, an at-times tearful Alex Rodriguez announced Sunday morning that he will play his final major-league game Friday at Yankee Stadium against the Rays before assuming an advisory role in which he will report directly to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
A-Rod, who is stuck on 696 home runs (fourth all time) and described his last month essentially fastened to the bench as "very painful and embarrassing," will collect all of the approximately $27 million left on his 10-year contract.
Officially, the 41-year-old will be unconditionally released Friday then sign a contract to "serve as a special adviser and instructor," according to the club.
"We all want to play forever," Rodriguez said during a news conference that included the entirety of the Yankees' roster sitting in the back, as well as Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, there representing the Steinbrenner family. "Accepting the end gracefully is part of being a professional athlete."
A-Rod, who said the decision was not forced upon him by Hal Steinbrenner — though he occasionally provided answers that suggested he felt compelled to accept the owner's offer — said he will return "home" to Miami after Friday and begin his "duties" as an adviser and instructor next spring training. The arrangement runs through Dec. 31, 2017.
"Alex has already proven to be a willing and effective mentor to many players who have come through our clubhouse, and I am confident that this next phase of his baseball life will bring out the best in Alex and the next generation of Yankees," Steinbrenner said in a statement.
Rodriguez said he finalized things with Steinbrenner on Wednesday when the owner was in town. According to Newsday, Steinbrenner also met at length with manager Joe Girardi and GM Brian Cashman on Tuesday and Wednesday, meetings in which, presumably, at least some of Sunday's news was discussed.
Most of Steinbrenner's discussions with A-Rod took place Tuesday over the phone, then in person Wednesday.
A-Rod said "I'm not going to share" what occurred in his conversations with Steinbrenner, only saying "I was incredibly humbled and flattered" by the role offered.
A club spokesperson, speaking for Steinbrenner on Sunday afternoon, said the owner laid out to Rodriguez the team's plan for the next two months, which included two or three more prospects being called up and, hence, likely continued bench time for A-Rod, but the owner never delivered an ultimatum.
"This is another way I can bring value to the franchise," Rodriguez said. "I'm 41 years old, I played 22 years in the major leagues. That's half my adult life. I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences, good and bad, with the young kids."
But Rodriguez, who has a .204/.252/.356 slash line in 62 games this season, with nine homers and 29 RBIs and just seven plate appearances since July 29, also hinted he felt nudged — even if ever so slightly — rather than outright choosing retirement.
He said the "last four weeks have not been fun."
"It's been awkward," he said of riding the bench. "So from that stance, I'm very happy we found this solution. Management has told me that I would get a few at-bats on Friday, so I am excited about that. For Boston? That's up to Joe. I haven't been told, but I am very excited about Friday."
Said Girardi: "If he wants to play in every game (through Friday), I'll find a way."
The Yankees start a three-game series at Fenway Park on Tuesday before hosting the Rays.
"I heard his pregame interview, and you can tell (despite) a lot of the things people said about him, the guy played with a lot of passion," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He cared a lot and obviously was a superstar player. Obviously it was a difficult situation for him, but I wish him nothing but the best."
Rays pitcher Chris Archer, who's scheduled to start Friday, said he hadn't given any thought to facing Rodriguez.
"I really haven't," he said. "I saw the retirement announcement (Sunday), but I haven't really given much thought into anything that's going to happen on Friday."
Rodriguez finishes his career — assuming he doesn't find work with another team — with clear Hall of Fame-caliber statistics: a .295 average, .380 on-base percentage and .550 slugging percentage, 3,114 hits, 2,084 RBIs and 2,021 runs scored, along with three AL MVP awards.
But his legacy is complicated. Judged solely on numbers, he is among the all-time greats. But, obviously, his career has been as much about things that have occurred off the field as on it, led by his association with PEDs and a seasonlong suspension in 2014.
"That's not for me to say," he said of how he wished to be remembered. "I do want to be remembered as someone who's madly in love with baseball. Hopefully I'll be remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot but kept getting up."