"It will be the first game that I play in, in maybe over eight months. It's been a long time," Rodriguez told The Associated Press in Tampa, Fla. "It's going to be great to suit up again. It gets me one step closer to helping my team win in New York."
A three-time American League Most Valuable Player who turns 38 later this month, Rodriguez has been working out at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, taking simulated at-bats against Minor League pitchers.
If Rodriguez's Minor League rehab assignment goes the full 20 days, he would be projected to rejoin the Yankees on July 22 as the club opens a four-game series against the Rangers in Arlington.
"That is definitely a step in the right direction," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said here, where New York opened a four-game series against the Twins. "He has the 20 days starting tomorrow, and he must feel pretty good. He must be moving pretty well. We'll see how it goes."
Rodriguez's return would be a welcome sight for the Yankees, who have lost 21 of their last 33 games entering play on Monday to fall a season-high 6 1/2 games behind the division-leading Red Sox in the American League East.
"We all know what kind of player he is and what he's done in this game in the past," Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said. "I would think he's going to be back, help us to win games and help us get back in the race."
"We've had trouble scoring runs, but that's no secret," Girardi said. "It'd be nice to get some big bats back."
Rodriguez, the owner of 647 big league home runs, is under contract with the Yankees through 2017 and is earning $28 million this season. He batted .272 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs in 122 games for New York last season before going just 3-for-35 in the postseason.
Girardi said that he has received positive reports on Rodriguez's progress from officials in Tampa, and is planning on using him mostly at third base, though Rodriguez will also see time as a designated hitter.
"I expect him to be a productive player," Girardi said. "The last time he got his hip fixed [in 2009] he came back productive, and hopefully this will solve some of the things that he was dealing with last year. I expect him to be productive. I can't tell you exactly what he's going to do, but I think he's going to be a good player."
Rodriguez and general manager Brian Cashman clashed last week over his projected rehab date. Cashman first shot down a newspaper report that suggested Rodriguez would begin a rehab assignment on Monday, then was angered when Rodriguez tweeted that he had been cleared to play in games by Bryan Kelly, who performed Rodriguez's surgery in January.
Cashman, Rodriguez and team president Randy Levine talked on a conference call for nearly 30 minutes to clear the air and get on the same page after the events. Rodriguez was on another conference call with club brass on Monday to confirm details of the rehab assignment.
"It's all been very positive," Rodriguez said. "We're all looking in the same direction: get back to New York as soon as possible, and tomorrow is the first big step. We've talked to all our doctors. Everyone has approved it."
Rodriguez's rehab is beginning with Charleston, the club's South Atlantic League affiliate, in part because the Riverdogs are at home and also because there has been poor weather in the Tampa area for the Yankees' Florida State League affiliate.
At later dates in Rodriguez's rehab, it is likely that he would advance to Double-A Trenton or Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre farm teams before rejoining the Yankees.
"We're working with the scheduling, where all these teams are at," Rodriguez said. "There's rain all over the East Coast. So, we're just going to try and run away, try to find some good sunshine.
"It has to do more with the weather. In an ideal world, we would always play at home because we can do more work, but if the weather is bad, we may have to jump over at X, Y or Z, depending where the sunshine is."