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Series win 'humongous gorilla' off A-Rod's back

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez felt a huge relief after helping the New York Yankees win the World Series.

The All-Star third baseman said a "humongous gorilla came off my back."

"Now I just have an opportunity to come out and play baseball and have fun," Rodriguez said. "Really continue to focus on what I did in 09'. Divorced myself of personal achievements and really buy into the whole team concept of winning ballgames. What can I do today to help the team win? It was the greatest year of my baseball career."

Rodriguez met with reporters on Thursday in the same tent where last year he addressed his past use of performance-enhancing drugs. Rodriguez said this year's media session made for a much different day.

"Looking back I thought it was a very important day," Rodriguez said. "I hit rock bottom. I've done a lot of growing up and realized a lot of things. I wanted to focus on baseball and eliminating a lot of distractions. For the most part I think I've done that. Now it's my responsibility to continue that."

Sidelined until May 8 after undergoing right hip surgery in early March, Rodriguez had 30 homers and 100 RBIs in 124 games.

"When you come back from surgery like he did, you're not sure exactly how he comes back," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "There was some doubts in my mind what was going to happen. To be able to have 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs, to me it's astonishing."

Many fans singled out the Rodriguez for the Yankees' failure to win a championship during his first five seasons in New York.

"I think sometimes when you add a player of Alex's caliber, if you don't win a World Series sometimes they pin it on the one guy," Girardi said. "But it takes 25 guys to win a World Series, and a lot of times it takes more than that. For Alex, I think that's probably a relief in a sense that he doesn't have to answer those questions and his memory of his last World Series has to be incredible."

Rodriguez said finally breaking through was "magical."

"I've never experienced -- besides the birth of my two daughters -- the feeling of winning a world championship in New York in the new stadium," he said. "It's something I'll never forget. The road was a tough one. For me, it was so rewarding to accomplish that goal with this great team."

And Rodriguez is looking for more of the same in 2010.

"You just want to keep winning," Rodriguez said. "It becomes an addiction."

Notes: Rodriguez thinks a new deal to keep SS Derek Jeter, who is entering the final season of a $189 million, 10-year contract, will be worked out. "Derek Jeter was born to be a Yankee and he was born to wear pinstripes," Rodriguez said. "He's our captain. I envision he'll finish his career here. I can't envision him wearing any other uniform." ... Spring training instructors Reggie Jackson and Tino Martinez arrived. ... LHP Andy Pettitte threw 36 pitches during his second bullpen session.

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