BOSTON - While Alex Rodriguez prepares for his last game as a Yankee on Friday night, a lingering question won’t go away:
Will it be A-Rod’s final game in the big leagues?
Rodriguez, 41, went 0-for-4 with an RBI as the DH Thursday night in the Yankees’ 4-2 victory over the Red Sox at Fenway Park and will start again Friday night against the Rays at Yankee Stadium. The game’s first pitch has been pushed back to 7:35 p.m. because of an on-field pregame ceremony honoring Rodriguez.
After that, he will be unconditionally released, meaning he can sign with another team. And one team close to A-Rod’s heart, his hometown Miami Marlins, has had some preliminary talks about that possibility, according to two sources familiar with the team’s thinking, confirming an MLB Network report from earlier in the day.
There is no indication yet that the Marlins, in the thick of the National League wild-card race, plan to make a play for him, but it does show that A-Rod might not be disappearing from the news cycle anytime soon.
And, as one executive not affiliated with either the Yankees or Marlins said, Miami has a potential spot because it has been using lefty-hitting Derek Dietrich and righty-hitting Chris Johnson in a platoon at first base.
“If he [A-Rod] has any ability at first [base], and it’s not clear if he does,” the executive said, “I’d take him over Johnson. Just on the potential of the bat alone.”
Additionally, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria’s affinity for A-Rod is well known throughout the industry.
It takes two to tango, of course, and Rodriguez, who was booed heartily before each of his at-bats Thursday night, didn’t give many hints which way he’s leaning regarding his on-field future, or even if he desires one, past Friday.
“I’m focusing on this is it,” A-Rod said of Friday. “I’m not looking beyond that. I value the pinstripes, I value this organization. To me, this is it.”
But . . .
“Again, anything outside of Friday, we can talk next week,” he said. “That will be a new set of questions, but right now, it’s really about tonight and tomorrow.”
Rodriguez, who after his release is slated to sign a contract as an adviser and instructor who reports directly to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, said he would feel compelled to run any offers past the owner.
“That’s a hypothetical, [but] anything that I do, I would clear with Hal first,” he said. “But I’m not getting there. That’s how I would handle it, though.”
As he’s done throughout what has been an at-times-bizarre week, Rodriguez said he remains confident in his ability to produce.
“Look, I feel like I can do it, I’ve been very consistent, I can play,” he said. “I can play baseball. This year’s been a struggle, I’ve struggled with my swing, but I’ve felt all along that I’ve worked really hard on my mechanics. I felt last night was close off a tough pitcher.”
Joe Girardi sent A-Rod up to pinch hit against righthander Matt Barnes in the seventh inning Wednesday night and he flied to right, deep enough to advance the runner on second.
Was he trying to hit a home run?
“I’m not going to lie,” Rodriguez said. “I was going for it.”
In Thursday night’s game, Rodriguez hit a soft liner to second, popped to second and struck out in his first three at-bats. He batted with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth against Brad Ziegler and hit a dribbler for an RBI groundout that gave the Yankees a 4-2 lead.
He insisted that walking away still believing he has something left is something he can live with.
“I know I can play baseball, but there’s nothing wrong with walking away with a little bit in the tank,” A-Rod said. “I feel like a swing like [Wednesday] night, I can walk away and be like, ‘That’s pretty good. I still have a little bit left.’ And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The Yankees trailed 2-1 entering the eighth Thursday night before scoring three runs to take the lead for good. With the bases loaded and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury sent a liner to left that rookie leftfielder Andrew Benintendi misplayed, with the ball flying over his head to the base of the Green Monster. Two runs scored on the play, which originally was scored as a sacrifice fly and an error and then changed to a double, to make it 3-2. After Chase Headley was intentionally walked to reload the bases, A-Rod’s dribbler in front of the plate, a 2-3 putout, brought in another run.
After two scoreless innings by Luis Cessa, called up earlier in the day, Dellin Betances pitched a scoreless ninth. With runners on first and third and one out, he struck out Dustin Pedroia swinging and Xander Bogaerts looking for his third save.