NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez exceeded the Yankees' expectations by belting 33 home runs in his return to the diamond last year, and that has the slugger taking aim at Babe Ruth's most recognizable number as he prepares for the 2016 season.
With 687 home runs to his name, Rodriguez needs 27 more to match the Bambino's career total of 714. Rodriguez told the New York Post that it is "overwhelming" to have the possibility of seeing his name alongside Ruth's.
"When you start playing baseball at 9 years old, you never think about tying anybody, let alone a guy like Babe Ruth," Rodriguez told the newspaper.
Rodriguez's 33 homers marked his highest total since 2008, with his performance seeing the benefits of transitioning to a full-time designated hitter role after losing all of the 2014 campaign to a historic suspension for violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Basic Agreement.
"It was reconnecting with the game, reconnecting with the clubhouse," Rodriguez said. "I love the clubhouse. What I found is how much fun the game is and last year I had a lot of fun."
Rodriguez matched and surpassed Willie Mays (660) on the all-time home run list last year, moving into sole possession of fourth place. With two years remaining on his Yankees contract, Rodriguez trails Ruth, Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762).
With 2,055 RBIs, Rodriguez is third all-time and gaining on Ruth (2,213). There are other notable names in Rodriguez's immediate future. His 3,070 hits rank 20th place all time and Rodriguez should soon pass Dave Winfield (3,110), followed by Tony Gwynn (3,141), Robin Yount (3,142), Paul Waner (3,152), George Brett (3,154) and Cal Ripken Jr. (3,184).
Rodriguez stands eighth all time in total bases (5,734), eyeing Pete Rose (5,752) and Ruth (5,793) next, and he is sixth all time with 1,259 extra-base hits. Mays (1,323) and Ruth (1,356) are within reach there, too.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi has said that he expects Rodriguez to again serve as the Yanks' DH in 2016, having appeared just six times in the field last year. Rodriguez took nicely to the role, telling the Post that he is "very happy to bring [his] lumber" to Spring Training.
"My plan this year is to continue to build on what I started last year," said Rodriguez, who batted .250 with 86 RBIs and an .842 OPS in 151 games. "And I want to be adding value to the team both in the clubhouse and on the field. I'm happy and excited about our young players coming up. I'm excited about our bullpen."
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.