Posted on: May 19, 2011 1:53 pm
NEW YORK -- The question has come up half a dozen times, just in the last week.
"What are the Red Sox going to do about their catching?" one scout or another asks. "They've got to go find a catcher."
No matter how many times the Red Sox say that Jarrod Saltalamacchia is getting better, scouts watching the team all come back saying the same thing. They've got to get a catcher.
How about Pudge Rodriguez?
Rodriguez is a back-up now with the Nationals, who are using Wilson Ramos as their starter. Rodriguez is hitting just .238, heading into Thursday's afternoon game against the Mets, but he has 14 RBI in 63 at-bats.
And, unlike Saltalamacchia, he's still a plus defender.
"He can really block balls in the dirt, and he can really throw," Nats manager Jim Riggleman said, echoing what rival scouts have said. "He's really at the top of his game defensively.
"He's a No. 1 catcher, who is in a backup role here."
That may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but not much.
The Nationals have suggested to people that they're not anxious to trade Rodriguez yet, but it's hard to believe they wouldn't. The Red Sox keep suggesting that the Saltalamacchia-Jason Varitek combination will be fine, but it's hard to believe it will be.
He smiled Thursday morning when I asked him about Boston.
"That's a good park to hit in," he said. "I've always hit well there."
Nationals people rave about how willing Rodriguez has been to accept his role, and to work with Ramos. Rodriguez raved about Ramos, saying, "He's going to be great. He's a very, very good catcher, and a good hitter."
But even at 39, Rodriguez doesn't believe he's at the end of his own career.
"I've got plenty of years left," he said. "I feel great. I can probably play 2-3 more years, for sure. I still love what I do."
He's also moving closer to his goal of 3,000 hits. Rodriguez entered play Thursday with 2,832 hits.
Posted on: February 18, 2011 4:52 pm
Gary Sheffield once told me he really wanted to get to 3,000 hits.
I can't say I believed him.
Pudge Rodriguez told me last year that 3,000 hits was a goal.
I did believe him.
So I can't say I'm surprised at this week's developments for either Sheffield (who announced his retirement , more than a year after he last played) or for Rodriguez (who was named by Nationals manager Jim Riggleman as the team's starting catcher).
And if Rodriguez is able to play a full season's worth of games this year for Washington, at age 39, he could get close to that 3,000-hit goal. He begins the year with 2,817, and while it's been 12 years since he had 180-plus hits in a season, even a 141-hit year like he had in 2007 with the Tigers would leave him within easy range of 3,000.
Rodriguez keeps himself in great condition, and barring a major injury, I have little doubt that he'll want to keep playing, especially if he's close to 3,000. And I'd be surprised if no team gave him a chance to get there.
Sheffield, meanwhile, told George King of the New York Post that he wanted to retire after finishing the 2009 season with the Mets, which means he wanted to retire about four weeks after telling me that he was focused on getting the 311 hits he still needed to reach 3,000. Anyone who has followed Sheffield's career can't be surprised by that contradiction.
Of course, Sheffield also once told me that 500 home runs was more impressive than 3,000 hits, because "anyone can hit singles."
Sheffield did reach 500 home runs, and when you combine that with 2,689 hits, 1,676 RBI and other numbers, he's at worst a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. He could be hurt by his inclusion in the Mitchell Report, but who knows how the electorate will feel about that by the time he's on the ballot in 2014.
Rodriguez, one of the best catchers ever, is a sure bet to make the Hall of Fame, unless enough voters lay off because of steroid rumors (he wasn't in the Mitchell Report and never failed a test, but he was in Jose Canseco's book).
Rodriguez won't be on the ballot for quite a while. He's still not ready to retire, and he may not leave for a few more years. I have no doubt he wants to.
I believe him.
Posted on: May 12, 2010 2:54 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2010 3:23 pm
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.
Posted on: December 8, 2009 12:58 am
Edited on: December 8, 2009 1:54 am
INDIANAPOLIS -- Pudge Rodriguez is headed to the Nationals.
The veteran catcher has agreed to terms on a two-year contract for $6 million, CBSSports.com has confirmed. The Nationals want Rodriguez to mentor and share time with young catcher Jesus Flores, who is recovering from shoulder surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. Rodriguez will help the Nats bridge the gap until top catching prospect Derek Norris is ready for the big leagues.
The two-year deal is big for Rodriguez, who turned 38 last month but has said many times that he doesn't plan to retire anytime soon. Last year, Rodriguez waited into spring training before finding a job with the Astros. He hit .251 in 93 games for the Astros, and then was traded back to the Rangers, his original team.
Rodriguez has 2,711 career hits, so he could top the 3,000-hit mark during his time in Washington.
Posted on: March 16, 2009 2:19 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2009 7:17 pm
The Astros have agreed to terms with catcher Pudge Rodriguez, one of the last of the remaining big-name free agents.
Rodriguez is expected to become Houston's everyday catcher. Playing time had been an issue in Rodriguez's talks with the Marlins, but with the Astros Rodriguez could catch as many as five games a week.
Houston's catchers have been awful this spring. The three catchers on the Astros' major-league roster have combined to go 8-for-50 with three RBIs. In just four games for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, Pudge is 9-for-15 with three doubles, two home runs and six RBIs.
The Astros had always made sense as a destination for Rodriguez, but until just the last few days, owner Drayton McLane had refused to commit the money. The Astros will likely keep Humberto Quintero as Rodriguez's backup. They still think that their catcher of the future will be Jason Castro, the club's top draft pick last June.
Rodriguez won't report to the Astros until Puerto Rico is done with the WBC.
Posted on: March 14, 2009 7:54 pm
Edited on: March 15, 2009 1:22 pm
MIAMI -- The Astros always made sense as a potential destination for Pudge Rodriguez. Finally, the team is showing some interest in the free-agent catcher.
It's not yet clear how serious the Astros' interest is.
The three catchers on Houston's major-league roster are a combined 8-for-47 (.170) this spring. With three hits tonight against Team USA, Rodriguez is 9-for-15 in the WBC.
The Marlins also remain a potential Pudge destination. Guaranteed playing time has been an issue in talks with Florida, but it's possible that something could be worked out where Rodriguez would play some first base in addition to catching.
The Giants and Twins have also talked about Rodriguez, even though neither team is in the market for an everyday catcher. The Giants have been looking all winter for a bat at one of the corner infield positions. The Twins seem a more remote possibility, even with the possibility that Joe Mauer will have to begin the season on the disabled list.
Posted on: March 13, 2009 6:37 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2009 2:35 am
MIAMI -- Pudge Rodriguez said in January that a team signing him would "hit the lotto."
Two months later, he's still unsigned, even after he went 6-for-11 with two home runs for Puerto Rico in the first round of the World Baseball Classic.
"First of all, my focus has been on the Puerto Rico team, and trying to help Puerto Rico win the Classic," he said Friday. "But this is very important for my future. General managers and even owners, I'm sure, are watching."
Rodriguez said that he's "shocked" and "surprised" that he hasn't been able to land a contract yet, but he did say that guaranteed playing time remains an issue.
"To be honest, I'm in tremendous shape and I still believe I can play on an everyday basis," the 37-year-old catcher said. "I'm telling you, I'm ready to play everyday."
Where will that be?
"You'll see soon," Rodriguez predicted.
While Rodriguez wouldn't mention which teams he's talking to, the Giants and Twins are believed to have some interest. While neither team has a need for an everyday catcher, both could use an offensive boost. The Astros so far haven't shown interest, even though their catchers are having a brutal spring.
Posted on: July 30, 2008 4:59 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2008 6:07 pm
Here's a prediction. Two of them, actually.
It's always that way when Pudge changes teams. The Rangers missed him, and the Marlins won a World Series with him. The Marlins missed him, and eventually the Tigers went to the World Series with him.
Now he's off to the Yankees, traded today for Kyle Farnsworth, in a deal that helps the Yankees and might well hurt the Tigers. Yes, the Tigers needed help in the bullpen, and maybe Farnsworth can be effective as a closer.
But they'll miss Pudge.
There are issues with Pudge, but there's also this: Pudge wants to play, he wants to win, and he's still a lot better than most of the catchers out there.
I saw Pudge Sunday morning at Comerica Park, and you could tell he wasn't happy. And you know why he wasn't? In the three-game weekend series against the first-place White Sox, he only played in two of the three games. He wanted to play all three, including the day game after the night game.
Same thing today. Pudge said he was shocked to come to the ballpark and find out that he was getting traded. Why? Because the Tigers are only 5 1/2 games out, and he figured he was going to help them close that gap and get to the playoffs. He never imagined that they'd trade him away when they still had a chance to win.
Pudge will frustrate you at times. He's not the hitter he once was, he doesn't always block balls in the dirt, and some pitchers will grumble about throwing to him. On the other hand, he went out and proved that the $40 million, four-year contract the Tigers gave him in the winter of 2003-04 was money well spent.
Now he might well help a third team get to the World Series.
"He's going to provide an energy that team needs," said one scout who knows the Yankees well. "He brings a Girardi-type influence. He doesn't just know how to won, but he's already won it all. You put him in that clubhouse, he could kick-start them."
The Yankees will be happy to have him. And the Tigers will miss him.