NEW YORK — For the past 13 years, Alex Rodriguez’s tenure with the New York Yankees has been the biggest reality show in baseball filled with home runs and numerous controversies.
For the last month, speculation about the end of Rodriguez’s tenure has been rampant.
On Friday, it officially ends when Rodriguez and the Yankees face the Tampa Bay Rays in the opener of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium in front of a crowd that will include his mother and two daughters.
Rodriguez will be making his last appearance for the Yankees in something many thought was inevitable once his presence from the regular lineup began getting phased out in late-June. The Yankees made it official Sunday when they announced Rodriguez would be released and join the team as an advisor in the 2017 season.
The announcement was kept secret until minutes before Rodriguez began his own press conference where he grew emotional and expressed appreciation for managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, who came up with the idea last week.
Unlike the farewells to Derek Jeter in 2014 and Mariano Rivera the previous year, Rodriguez’s career is concluding quietly, though he will be honored with a ceremony before the game.
The celebrations of Jeter and Rivera’s careers are a stark contrast for Rodriguez.
While he has 696 home runs, three MVPs and 14 trips to the All-Star game, Rodriguez also involved in two performance-enhancing drug scandals, including a record 162-game suspension in 2014 for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
Since returning from the ban last year, Rodriguez has steered clear of controversy and few teammates had difficulties finding positive things say to about the 41-year-old Sunday.
"Hopefully Friday will be a great day for Alex," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We’re going to support him every step of the way and we’re going to miss him and that’s from the bottom of our hearts. We’re going to miss Alex in this clubhouse."
"His IQ is off the charts, his baseball IQ is very high and he knows so much about the game," catcher Brian McCann said. "From the pitching side to the hitting side, too. Picking up little things. It’s incredible his attention to detail."
Despite the praise from teammates Rodriguez is going out quietly because of his struggles at the plate. He is batting .199 after going 0-for-4 with an RBI groundout in Thursday’s 4-2 win at Boston, which gave New York a 58-56 record and put the Yankees within 3 1/2 games of the second wild card spot.
Rodriguez had a .223 average when the Yankees began phasing him out and has started 13 of New York’s 41 games since June 25. Since June 25, Rodriguez has seven hits in his last 55 at-bats and when his occasional start resulted in unproductive at-bats it gradually led to rookie Gary Sanchez becoming part of the designated hitter mix.
One thing Rodriguez will not be doing Friday is playing third base. He asked manager Joe Girardi about playing third base but had the request turned down.
"It was a fun request, and I don’t have any problem with Joe saying no on that," Rodriguez said. "I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. That’s not fair to anyone. It was just a fun request. He’s probably saving me some embarrassment, so that’s not a bad thing."
Still Girardi will find a way to give fans time to cheer Rodriguez.
"There’s a way that you’d like to see him go out where the fans can show him the appreciation," Girardi said. "And then I will try to accommodate that the best I can."
When Rodriguez’s time with the Yankees is done, only three members of the 2009 championship team will remain.
One of them will be on the mound when CC Sabathia takes the mound. Sabathia has struggled recently by going 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last five starts and also has struggled at home, going 1-6 with a 4.82 ERA in nine starts.
Sabathia last pitched Saturday against Cleveland when he allowed three runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 5-2 loss.
The Rays have been no stranger to notable events in recent Yankees history and are embracing their role in Rodriguez’s final game with New York.
"He’s played for as long as I can remember," Rays first baseman Brad Miller told MLB.com Wednesday. "It’s history Friday when we’re there."
David Price gave up Jeter’s 3000th hit in 2011 and Mariano Rivera’s storied career ended with an appearance against Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay also was the opponent when the Yankees unveiled the plaque to late owner George Steinbrenner in 2010 and when the Yankees played their first home game following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Chris Archer was on Tampa Bay when Rivera’s career ended and the right-hander will be the final starting pitcher Rodriguez faces. Rodriguez is 2-for-15 off Archer and both hits are home runs.
"He’s already got two off me," Archer told MLB.com. "Those are the two I hope he has. I’m on his list. I’m in his book twice."
Tampa Bay has won five of nine meetings with the Yankees, including a three-game sweep at home two weeks ago which. Those wins by Tampa Bay resulted in New York officially becoming sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline.
Since sweeping the Yankees, the Rays have dropped six of 10, including a 7-0 loss at Toronto on Wednesday.