Alex Rodriguez hits 600th HR

NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th career home run on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, becoming the youngest player to ever reach that milestone.

Rodriguez hit a two-run homer to straightaway center field in the first inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, off Shaun Marcum. It came on a 2-0 pitch over the middle of the plate with Derek Jeter on first and two out.

At 35 years, 8 days, Rodriguez became the youngest player in history to join the 600 Club, and the seventh player in baseball history to reach the milestone.

He raised a hand slightly in triumph as he rounded first base, then completed his home run trot. He joined an elite club that includes Barry Bonds (762), Henry Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and Sammy Sosa (609). After Rodriguez, the next-youngest member of the 600 Club is its first -- Ruth, at 36 years, 196 days.

"[I'm] definitely glad it's over and I definitely enjoyed that moment and enjoyed the win," he said after the game, a 5-1 Yankees victory that prevented a Toronto three-game series sweep. "We needed a win today ... we needed to stop the bleeding a little bit. That's a very good team over there."

Of the seven players with 600 homers, Rodriguez's 46 at-bats between No. 599 and No. 600 were the longest. His 600th homer ended a 12-game homerless slump and came exactly three years to the day after his 500th homer.

Entering Thursday's game, Rodriguez was 4-for-17 against Marcum with one career homer off the right-hander.

Rodriguez's 17th homer of the season sailed over the center-field wall and landed in Monument Park. The ball was retrieved by a Yankees security guard and will be returned to Rodriguez.

As he rounded the bases, he was treated to a standing ovation from the crowd at Yankee Stadium. After he touched home plate he was embraced by Jeter, who had scored ahead of him, and by the next batter, Robinson Cano.

All of Rodriguez's teammates -- many of whom had raised their arms in joy when he finally connected -- then came out of the dugout to embrace him. After they had all retreated to the dugout, Rodriguez returned for his own curtain call.

"Congratulations to Alex on this great achievement and on adding another highlight to Yankees history. We are especially proud he accomplished this feat as a Yankee and here before the most loyal fans in baseball," team co-owner Hal Steinbrenner said of the achievement.

Rodriguez had gone 46 at-bats between home runs Nos. 599 and 600 -- 25 more than Willie Mays, who needed 21 at-bats to reach the milestone in 1970.

Asked if he thought the ball would clear the fence, he said he wasn't sure.

"It sure has been awhile, but it definitely felt good to get a big home run and help us win," he said.

"I just wanted to get a base hit," he added. "My teammates wanted me to go out there and relax."

The Yankees immediately informed fans that a special program and T-shirt were available to commemorate A-Rod's achievement. One stand behind home plate sold out within two innings.

A-Rod hit his 599th off Robinson Tejeda of the Kansas City Royals last Thursday at Yankee Stadium. The ball he hit was the 104th specially marked one that had been used for each of his plate appearances since reaching No. 599.

The longest homerless streak of his career came in 1994 and 1995, when he was a young, skinny kid with the Mariners and went 102 at-bats without a home run.

As a Yankee, he had a 72 at-bat homerless streak last year and a 61 at-bat stretch earlier this season.

A-Rod turned 35 last Tuesday, putting his home run pace far ahead of the rest. Ruth had been the youngest to hit 600; the Sultan of Swat did it in fewer games, though -- 2,044 to 2,227 for Rodriguez.

In the three years since he hit No. 500, much has changed for him.

During a tumultuous spring training of 2009, Rodriguez admitted to using steroids while playing for the Texas Rangers from 2001 to '03. He also had major hip surgery that kept him out the first month last year, as the team adjusted to high-profile newcomers CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira without him.

He returned with a fresh outlook that put the team first, helping lead the Yankees to their first World Series championship since 2000 and reversing a trend of personal playoff failures.

Even though he went homerless in his first 41 at-bats this year and has connected at a much slower rate compared with the rest of his career, the 13-time All-Star has been saying that No. 600 is merely a springboard to better things -- mainly helping his team win, but also reaching Bonds' record of 762 home runs.

Being the home run king comes with a tarnished crown, though.

After Bonds eclipsed Aaron's record with his 756th in 2007 amid accusations of steroid use -- something Bonds vehemently denies -- talk immediately turned to A-Rod, who days earlier had become the fastest to No. 500. He was supposed to be the player who would restore credibility to American sports' most cherished record, but that all changed two years later.

In response to an SI.com report and mounting speculation, A-Rod admitted to using steroids as he hit 156 homers with Texas. He has 255 with the Yankees and 189 with the Seattle Mariners, who picked him No. 1 in the 1993 amateur draft.

Rodriguez is among only three players, along with Reggie Jackson and Darrell Evans, to hit 100 home runs for three different teams.

For one of the most scrutinized players in baseball, there was little fanfare in the run-up to No. 600 -- perhaps it's steroids era fatigue or the fact that Rodriguez became the fourth player to reach the mark in the last 10 years after none in 31 years.

The pursuit of the home run record gets lucrative now. As part of his $275 million, 10-year deal signed after opting out of his contract during the 2007 World Series, Rodriguez can earn up to $30 million more for six milestone homers.

If Rodriguez ties Mays, he will receive a $6 million bonus. He'd get $6 million more each time for matching Ruth, Aaron and Bonds and breaking the record.

Rodriguez hit No. 100 in August 1998 with Seattle, No. 200 in May 2001 and No. 300 in April 2003 with Texas. His 400th home run came on June 8, 2005, against Milwaukee during his second season with the Yankees.

Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand and The Associated Press was used in this report.