A-Rod in a much better place at 40 years old

Yankees slugger cuts cake in clubhouse before game

A-Rod in a much better place at 40 years old

ARLINGTON -- Alex Rodriguez said that he does not remember where or how he celebrated his 39th birthday a year ago, but he knows for certain that he was not cutting the cake in a big league clubhouse. For that reason alone, 40 already feels great for the Yankees' designated hitter.

"Someone asked me about 40 and evaluating where I am; I think I did a lot of that last year," said Rodriguez, who sat out during a season-long suspension.

"I had a lot of time to think and evaluate. It was a dark time, that's for sure. To be able to come back this year and look back, I think hopefully I'm going to be a better player -- but more importantly, a better person -- for the next 40 years."

In the sixth inning during Monday's 6-2 win, Rodriguez hit a solo shot, becoming the fourth player in MLB history to homer in his teens and 40s.

A-Rod homers on 40th birthday

This trip to Texas carries some mixed emotions for Rodriguez. He has some fond memories of the place where he hit 156 home runs with the Rangers from 2001-03, but the team was not competitive and Rodriguez later admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during those seasons with the club in hopes of justifying a massive contract.

"I think there was a point in time for me when hitting home runs, being a great baseball player, was all that mattered," Rodriguez said. "I figured that if I hit more home runs, it would justify for whatever behavior I had off the field. I realize today that it's not that way at all. Hitting home runs doesn't make you a good father, it doesn't make you a good friend, and it certainly doesn't make you a good teammate. To me they're both important."

As Rodriguez continues to reclaim public sentiment by doing and saying all of the right things, his power hasn't hurt the cause. He enjoyed the fifth three-homer game of his career on Saturday at Target Field to swell his season total to 23, and Rodriguez is one of only 10 Major Leaguers to hit 20 or more homers in 16 different seasons.

Statcast: A-Rod's three homers

"I'm going to continue to work hard," Rodriguez said. "I thought April would be my most challenging month and as I started getting more repetition, hopefully I would get better. I think that's happened and I hope that continues. I'm going to continue to work out and go through my regimen, but it's also a nice reminder that if you play clean and you play hard, that good things can happen."

Rodriguez said that his daughters traveled to Texas to help him ring in the big birthday, and his teammates planned to gather after Monday's game for a celebration. Rodriguez said that he continues to have a "great feeling" about how the 2015 Yankees have jelled.

"This team gets along really, really well," Rodriguez said. "One through 25, everyone makes contributions, guys pick each other up. It feels really good. Carlos Beltran had an event and we had a bunch of guys there. The next day CC Sabathia had a party at his house and we were all there. Those are the kind of things you start saying, 'It has a good feel to it.'"

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.