Alex Rodriguez hits homer No. 600 in Yankees win

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NEW YORK (AP) - Alex Rodriguez needed exactly three years _ not a day more or less _ to jump from 500 home runs to 600.

Reaching 700 may take a while longer. And 800 _ well, too early to think about.

“So much of it depends on health,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s probably maybe going to get more days off.”

A-Rod became the youngest member of the 600-home run club on Wednesday, at 35 years, 8 days joining an exclusive but expanding group that includes Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), Babe Ruth (714), Willie Mays (660), Ken Griffey Jr. (630) and Sammy Sosa (609). The next youngest was Ruth at 36 years, 196 days, in 1931, though he did it in 183 fewer games.

Among active players, Jim Thome (577) is second, followed by Manny Ramirez (554), Chipper Jones (435), Vladimir Guerrero (428), Jason Giambi (412) and Andruw Jones (403). Only Albert Pujols, with 393 at a relatively young 30 1/2, is likely to have a chance to reach 700 along with Rodriguez.

Last year, long before the historic homer off Toronto’s Shaun Marcum in a 5-1 New York victory, Rodriguez’s reputation _ and life _ changed markedly. In response to a SportsIllustrated.com report in February 2009, he admitted to using steroids while playing for the Texas Rangers from 2001-03, a span when he hit 156 homers. He also had major hip surgery, returning with a team-first outlook.

“None of us can go back and change time. but I knew with the green that I had in front of me that I would have an opportunity to rewrite some of the chapters in my life and in my career, and try to do things right,” he said.

He tried to let his performance speak for him, and cut down his chattiness among media.

“I really don’t like talking that much,” he said. “That was the old Alex.”

After struggling to hit his 600th home run, A-Rod reached the milestone with his usual dramatic flair, driving a pitch over Yankee Stadium’s center-field fence and into Monument Park. And, oh, the timing, coming on the anniversary of his 500th homer.

“That’s amazing,” Rodriguez said. “To the day.”

His two-run, first-inning drive put New York ahead on a sweltering afternoon, and the Yankees stopped a three-game losing streak.

Rodriguez went 9 for 46 after homering on July 22, the longest stretch between Nos. 599 and 600 for any of the seven to reach the mark. He was hitless in his last 17 at-bats.

“It was a relief just to put it past me,” he said. “There’s no question I was pressing ‘cause I wanted to get it out of the way.”

A-Rod reached the milestone after a 12-game drought, connecting with a 2-0 pitch over the middle of the plate for his 17th home run of the season.

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