Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez reflects on 'Cinderella season'

TAMPA, Fla. -- A year ago, Alex Rodriguez was such an outcast in the Yankees organization that the club didn't even allow him to use the team's news conference room. With throngs of media wanting to talk to him following his yearlong suspension, A-Rod spoke on a sidewalk outside the minor league facility, unsure if he would even make the team.

Twelve months and 33 homers later, Rodriguez, in a much more subdued setting, said he felt liberated by what he described as his Cinderella season. With two more seasons on his 10-year, $275 million contract, A-Rod is in a different place, wanting to play as long as he can.

"There was a lot of chatter about if I would make the team or not," Rodriguez said in a staged news conference inside the major league facility. "I know we were talking about [if I would make the team] last year at this time. Look, at age 40 with two hip surgeries, I'm day-to-day. My attitude is to play hard and play as long as my body lets me."

The Yankees are going to do their best to protect A-Rod's body. Joe Girardi plans to use Rodriguez strictly as a DH unless the Yankees were to run out of position players during a game, which is a rare occurrence.

On Thursday, during the team's first full workout, A-Rod put on a glove, which Girardi said may be the most preparation A-Rod receives in the field.

When Rodriguez showed up last spring, he was seeped in uncertainty about where or when he would play after completing his one-year suspension for performance-enhancing drug use.

"Overall, I feel so much better coming into this year," Rodriguez said. "It is certainly liberating not carrying this luggage around me all offseason. I'm at ease and I'm at a good place. I know 2015 was a Cinderella season for me. Look, I don't take it for granted. To be able to wear a uniform at the age of 40 is pretty cool."

Rodriguez finished the season with a .250 average, 33 homers and 86 RBIs in 151 games. In August, he began a slump that extended until the end of the regular season. In his final 56 games, he hit just .191 with nine homers and 25 RBIs.

"I ran out of gas in August," Rodriguez said. "My energy started to pick up again in September. I just stunk. In August, I was fatigued a little bit. In September, I felt great and played poorly."

The post-suspension A-Rod has adopted a mantra of keeping his life simpler so he tries not to look that much ahead.

"I've made some big mistakes and that is never going to go away," Rodriguez said. "Last year, I made some great progress, on and off the field, but I'm at first base. I have a long ways to go. My life is not just about baseball. I have hopefully the next 40 years to be a father, to be a friend and to be an example for my friends."

One area he did look ahead and address was the possibility that he could become a manager after retirement.

"I'll be managing, but I'll probably be managing my girls' teams or at the Boys & Girls Club," Rodriguez said. "I won't be managing [in the majors]. You can quote me on that one."