Rodriguez's sixth-inning home run off Angels reliever Chris Bootcheck made the power-hitting infielder just the fifth player in Major League history to hit 40 home runs in eight seasons.
The other players to do so? Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Harmon Killebrew (each eight times) and Babe Ruth (11 times).
"I'm proud," Rodriguez said. "It's pretty awesome, pretty humbling. I'm very humbled by the whole experience."
The line-drive home run into the left-field bullpen at Angel Stadium was Rodriguez's first since Aug. 11 and came with good timing -- homer No. 40 allowed Rodriguez to still call the Major League lead his own on a night when Milwaukee's Prince Fielder clubbed No. 39.
The drought, Rodriguez said, could date back to a painful hit-by-pitch that took place on Aug. 7, when he was hit in the right calf by Toronto's Josh Towers.
Acknowledging that he perhaps should have taken a day or two off after the incident -- for which Roger Clemens retaliated and earned a five-game suspension -- Rodriguez said that his discomfort is finally dissipating.
"My body felt alive last night for the first time in about a week," Rodriguez said. "I've been nursing this calf a little bit and nurturing it. I haven't felt like I've had my legs under me for about a week."
Yankees manager Joe Torre said that he had planned to give Rodriguez a day off on Wednesday for the series finale against the Angels, which would effectively give A-Rod two off-days with the Yankees' dark calendar date Thursday.
But Rodriguez isn't going without a fight. He went 3-for-5 with three RBIs in the Yankees' extra-inning loss on Monday and -- even though Rodriguez's numbers against Wednesday's starter, John Lackey, are not stellar (8-for-41, .195) -- Torre seemed open to the idea that Rodriguez could force his way into the lineup with another good game on Tuesday.
"He's trying to talk me out of it," Torre said. "We'll see. He's auditioning."
Nothing doing: Rodriguez said there has been no progress made with the lucky fan who caught his 500th home run ball.
Walter Kowalczyk, 29, grabbed A-Rod's home run on Aug. 4 vs. Kansas City; the Yankees have made it known that they are willing to deal with the Rutgers University student to retrieve the milestone baseball.
"Toughest negotiations of my career," Rodriguez said.
Crash course: Wilson Betemit may be a relative novice first baseman, but he handled an eighth-inning play like a pro on Monday, stabbing a Maicer Izturis shot and gunning down Gary Matthews Jr. at the plate.
"That's infielding," Torre said. "The thing I like more than anything about yesterday was that he caught the ball and it looked like he was in no rush to throw it. The rhythm of the game, he seems comfortable with."
The 25-year-old Betemit may have found at least a partial home. The Yankees haven't been shy about trying him at a multitude of positions since his July 31 acquisition from the Dodgers, including first base, a position he never played before the trade but was drilling at again early Tuesday.
"I feel more comfortable," Betemit said. "I never thought I'd play much first base, with those guys like Jason Giambi and [Shelley] Duncan. They can play first. But you can't control the situation. It's the manager's decision who's going to play first, and I'm feeling comfortable now."
Bombers bits: Jorge Posada was given Tuesday off, with Jose Molina catching Mike Mussina. The two worked well together on Aug. 11 at Cleveland. ... Chris Lidle, the son of the late Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, visited the Yankees' clubhouse before Wednesday's game. ... The Yankees have right-handed prospect Joba Chamberlain available for one inning on Tuesday. If Chamberlain is not used, he would be eligible to pitch two innings on Wednesday under the organization's so-called "Chamberlain Rules."
Coming up: The Yankees and Angels play the third and final game of their series on Wednesday at Angel Stadium, with New York sending left-hander Andy Pettitte (10-7, 3.80 ERA) to the mound. The Angels counter with Lackey (15-7, 3.32 ERA), with first pitch scheduled for 10:05 p.m. ET on the YES Network.
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.