Bob Boone believes Pudge Rodriguez is "a shoo-in" to get 3,000 hits. He believes Rodriguez might catch 3,000 games.
And he believes . . .
"He's going to end up as the best catcher ever," said Boone, who caught 19 seasons in the big leagues and now serves as the Nationals vice president for player development. "You can talk about Johnny Bench, or Mike Piazza, or Gary Carter. Ivan Rodriguez is the best catcher who ever played the game.
"There's a catching fraternity, and right now Pudge is Numero Uno. He's the chairman of the fraternity."
Rodriguez ranks first among catchers in all-time games caught (2,312), hits as a catcher (2,653) and doubles as a catcher (535). He ranks seventh in home runs as a catcher (306, with Piazza the record holder at 396).
Boone was involved in the Nationals' decision to sign the 38-year-old Rodriguez to a $6 million, two-year contract over the winter.
"People said how could we do it, but I just kind of laughed," Boone said. "I knew he could do it. To me, it was a no-brainer."
At the time he retired in 1990, Boone held the record for most games caught, with 2,225. Carlton Fisk later passed him, and Rodriguez passed Fisk last year.
"I'm sure Pudge thinks he'd better move this record out for a while," Boone said with a chuckle. "That Mauer kid is on the way."
For the record, Joe Mauer caught his 631st career game on Wednesday in Minnesota. He entered play Wednesday with 770 hits as a catcher.
Boone and Rodriguez spent time together in Nationals camp this spring, and Boone said he told Rodriguez that the key to hitting as you get older is to concentrate on going the other way.
"You lose bat speed," Boone said. "I did. But you can play with limited bat speed as long as you're short to the ball. Hit it the other way. And Pudge has always been great at that."
The Nationals will be adding Stephen Strasburg to their rotation at some point, likely in early June. They expect Jordan Zimmermann, who had Tommy John elbow surgery last year, to pitch for them sometime in August.
They also have Chien-Ming Wang, but general manager Mike Rizzo refuses to set any kind of timetable for him.
"He's throwing bullpens," Rizzo said.
Wang had shoulder surgery last July.