"He's a guy that went out of his way to help me my first year out there," Phelps said. "It's a big transition from the Minor Leagues to the big leagues, let alone from Scranton, Pa., to New York City. He's just a guy that when I would get done pitching or between starts, he'd pull me aside and talk to me about sequences and the mental part of the game. He's a guy that gets crushed a lot for the mistakes he's made, but nobody gets to see the kind of guy that he is in the clubhouse and with the teammates."
Left-hander Mike Dunn
echoed Phelps' sentiments about Rodriguez's role as a teammate. Dunn debuted with the Yankees in 2009 and New York won a World Series that season with Rodriguez and first baseman Mark Teixeira
, who announced on Friday that he would retire at the end of the season.
"You can't play this game forever," Dunn said. "It catches up on us when we least expect it sometimes. They both had extremely long careers. A-Rod had 22 seasons, and Teixeira is right there with him. Those guys that played 20-plus seasons are being weeded out. To be able to see that again is going to be rare."
Marlins manager Don Mattingly was the Yankees' hitting coach for three seasons, beginning in 2004, when New York acquired Rodriguez in a trade with Texas. Mattingly said witnessing Rodriguez's 500th career home run (Aug. 4, 2007) was impressive, and he loved seeing the daily work A-Rod put in.
"To me, he was a guy that was always easy to deal with," Mattingly said. "He was a very hard worker and very pleasant to work with. He wanted to play every day, and there was no maintenance from the standpoint of did he want to play or not."
It is unclear how the rest of Rodriguez's career will play out; he has not ruled out playing again, and his role as a special assistant has not been fleshed out publicly. However, Phelps sees a successful post-playing career in Rodriguez's future.
"When you think about coaches, you look at guys who know the game of baseball and are intelligent with the game of baseball but can also communicate with a wide variety of players," Phelps said. "He definitely fits that mold. You also saw last year in the postseason when he was in the booth, he did a great job there. He's a guy with an incredible passion for the game."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.