- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN New York Writer
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So that made it even more special when A-Rod tied his former Seattle Mariners teammate on Major League Baseball's home run list.
Leading off the bottom of the third inning, Rodriguez belted a first-pitch, 92-mph, four-seam fastball from Los Angeles Angels pitcher Ervin Santana over the wall in dead center field. It was his first homer of the season and 630th of his career, tying Griffey Jr. for fifth place all-time. It was his 285th home run as a Yankee and 69th against the Angels, his most against any opponent.
Rodriguez needs 30 homers to tie Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list (660). Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) are the top three all-time home run hitters.
"It definitely means I'm getting old; that's for sure," Rodriguez, who batted third for the first time this season, said after going 3 for 4 with a stolen base and two runs scored in the Yankees' 5-0 victory over the Angels in their home opener on Friday afternoon.
Rodriguez said he remembers being in a cab in Miami when he was 18 years old with Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and dreaming about "playing five years in the major leagues or if we can ever make a $1 million. That would be the biggest day of your life."
"You never dream of winning world championships or reaching milestones like that," Rodriguez said.
So does he think he has a shot of breaking Bonds' record one day?
"There's no question that if I'm healthy and I have my legs under me, that I can play at a high level and help the team win," Rodriguez said, sidestepping the question.
The 36-year-old third baseman is in the fifth year of a 10-year, $275 million contract he signed in 2007. Rodriguez has several home run incentives that could push the value of the deal to $305 million.
He will get $6 million each for passing Mays, Ruth, Aaron and Bonds, plus an additional $6 million if he becomes the all-time leader.
Rodriguez, however, has been slowed by injuries of late. He played 124 games in 2009 (30 homers), 137 in 2010 (30 homers) and just 99 in 2011 (16 homers), so it may be difficult for him to get there.
Rodriguez was batting just .174 with no home runs or RBIs coming into Friday afternoon's game, which prompted manager Joe Girardi to flip-flop him and second baseman Robinson Cano in the lineup.
Rodriguez responded by lining two solid singles along with the home run.
"If you think that's a story, wait until I take over (Derek) Jeter's spot. That'll be a real story," Rodriguez joked before the game. "No matter where you hit, you basically just gotta produce."
Prior to Rodriguez's homer, the Yankees had been the only team in baseball without an RBI from their Nos. 3 and 4 lineup spots, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Mike Mazzeo is a frequent contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tied Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth place on Major League Baseball's all-time home run list, belting his 630th homer leading off the third inning of Friday's home opener against the Angels.