TAMPA, FLA. >> Alex Rodriguez arrived at spring training feeling relaxed.
He reported last February after missing 2014 while serving a suspension for violations of baseball's drug agreement and labor contract. And he was sidelined for most of 2013 following hip surgery.
This year, no such issues for the 40-year-old, coming off his first season as a full-time designated hitter. He called last spring training "an extremely challenging situation."
"Overall, I just feel so much better coming into this year," Rodriguez said Thursday after the Yankees' first full-squad workout. "Liberating to come into the season not carrying all the luggage along with me all off season. I'm in a good place."
There was no smattering of boos Thursday from several hundred fans present at Steinbrenner Field, unlike a year earlier as A-Rod walked out of the first-base dugout for batting practice.
"Look, I made some big mistakes, and that's never going to go away," Rodriguez said. "I think last year I made some great progress both on and off the field, but I'm at first base. I've got a long ways to go."
Rodriguez hit .250 with 33 homers and 86 RBIs last season, slumping during the final weeks of the season. He is 13 home runs shy of 700.
"2015 for me was, in many ways a Cinderella season, and I don't take it for granted," Rodriguez said. "I couldn't believe what happened to me. To be able to wear a uniform at the age of 40 is pretty cool. I just had a lot of fun last year. I hope to build on that this year."
After reviewing last season, Rodriguez said he intends to pace himself more in an attempt to finish strongly.
"I ran out of gas in August, and my energy kind of picked up in September and I just stunk," he said. "I was fatigued a little bit."
Ill will between Rodriguez and Yankees management appears to be in the past. One of the Yankees' promotions this season is Alex Rodriguez Replica Bat Day.
"It's hard to believe," he said. "One of the neatest days in my entire career was when the Yankees honored my 3000th hit (last year). And I think about having a day to share with mother, my two daughters, that was probably the best day of the year for me."
FIVE MORE YEARS?
One day after 35-year old Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said he would like to play five more years, Rodriguez said that won't be the case for him.
"I do love the game, I'm madly in love with the game of baseball, that's for sure, but I won't be playing five more years," Rodriguez said. "Coming into last year I really thought about one day at a time. At age 40 with two hip surgeries, I'm day to day. My plan is to prepare hard to play as long as my body lets me."
ALEX THE MANAGER?
Rodriguez said once his playing career is over, trying to become a big league manager is not in the plans.
"I'll be managing, probably, my girls' teams' or volunteer at the Boys and Girls Clubs," Rodriguez said. "I won't be managing. You can quote me on that one."