Nats welcome Pudge to DC
Veteran catcher expected to mentor starter Flores
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals introduced catcher Ivan Rodriguez at a news conference Friday afternoon. On Monday, the two parties had agreed to terms on a two-year, $6 million contract.
Affectionately known as Pudge, Rodriguez is expected to serve as a backup and role model to Jesus Flores, who is expected to be ready for Spring Training after having surgery on his right shoulder and right elbow. Rodriguez, 38, is one of Flores' baseball heroes.
The Nationals had targeted Rodriguez since the 2009 season came to an end. They think he has a lot left in the tank -- offensively and defensively -- and can be a huge difference in the clubhouse. The team does not think, however, that he can play over 100 games like he has in 16 out of his 19 years in the big leagues. However, Rodriguez sounded like a man who intends to play every day.
"The Nationals were a team that came to [me] to show up to play, pretty much on an everyday basis," Rodriguez said. "That's what I was looking for -- to play two more seasons. I feel I can play this game for two or three more years. They came out and showed interest in me to come to the team. ... I love what I saw when I played against them. That's the reason I decided to come to the Nationals."
Asked for a reaction of what Rodriguez said about playing every day, general manager Mike Rizzo said, "Would you expect anything different? He is a very prideful guy, and he thinks his skills are at their finest. He might be right. Like I said, he is going to be a significant contributor to the ballclub.
"Now if that means 70, 80, 90, 100 games, those are questions that will be answered throughout the course of the season. The best problem I'll have all season will be, who are these two hot catchers we are going to play on a daily basis?"
However, a source told MLB.com that Rodriguez most likely will be the 2010 Opening Day catcher for Washington because manager Jim Riggleman does not want to rush Flores back on the field.
The Nationals want to go slow with Flores, the source said. "By June, Flores and Rodriguez may split time, or [Riggleman] may go with the hot hand. We know this -- Rodriguez is not going to play 100 games."
Rodriguez, who will wear No. 7, has played in 14 All-Star Games and won 13 Gold Glove Awards, the most by a catcher and tied for fourth most at any position. The 1999 American League MVP Award winner also has more runs (1,277), hits (2,618) and doubles (526) than any other backstop in Major League history.
Rodriguez served as a backup for the Rangers after being acquired from the Astros in August. He played in a combined 121 games and hit .249 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in 2009.
Rodriguez also is an upgrade on defense. He ranked among the league leaders in throwing out runners. Last season, Josh Bard and Wil Nieves, who platooned behind the plate for most of the season when Flores was on the disabled list, had problems blocking balls and throwing out runners.
"He brings with him a laundry list of accolades and career records," Rizzo said. "We feel this is a player that will take us into the next level of competition. He is part of what we call the building process. He is a good piece of what we are doing currently in 2010 and in the future.
"His helpfulness, effectiveness and impact in the organization goes far beyond the playing on the field and all the statistics. It will be in the clubhouse and community of the Washington, D.C., area."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.