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12/14/09 3:08 PM EST

Flores overjoyed with signing of Pudge

Young catcher expecting to learn a lot from veteran, idol

Catcher Jesus Flores was overjoyed when he learned that the Nationals signed catcher Ivan Rodriguez to a two-year, $6 million contract last week.

Flores, 25, idolized the backstop affectionately known as Pudge when he was growing up in Venezuela. Now that they are teammates, Flores is expecting to learn a lot from Rodriguez.

"My reaction was, I couldn't believe it. Ivan has been one of my heroes since I started catching," Flores said via telephone. "Now having him as a teammate, that will be very valuable to me. Everyone knows what Pudge has done in his career, and the knowledge he has about baseball will be very important for anyone. The young pitchers, as well as myself, are going to learn a lot from him."

When asked if he was concerned about reduced playing time now that Rodriguez is on the roster, Flores said he is not thinking about his status on the team right now. His top priority is to make sure that his right shoulder and elbow is 100 percent healthy.

Flores is shut down from doing any baseball activities until February, he said, because he is rehabbing the shoulder and elbow in Miami.

"I'm doing great," Flores said. "After surgery, I'm feeling much better. My strength is coming along. I'm moving my arm lot better. I'm going to be ready for the season. I'm completely shutdown [for Winter Ball]. I guess I will start to throw a baseball in February."

On May 9, Flores suffered a right shoulder contusion against the D-backs. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Flores was hit on the shoulder by a Chris Young foul tip. Flores was in pain for several minutes, but remained in the game before being taken out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Flores was scheduled to come off the disabled list in late May, but doctors noticed a stress fracture inside his right shoulder. Surgery was not required. Flores would miss the next three months before he was activated in early September. By mid-September, Flores' season came to an end after having labrum surgery. He also had minor elbow surgery to remove a bone chip.

Flores ended the season by hitting .301 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 29 games. He hopes he never has another injury again.

"Everything was different because I was slated to be the everyday catcher, and the [shoulder injury] happened to me," Flores said. "Of course, it was really frustrating for me. ... It was like, 'Oh, my God. What's wrong with you?' ... I'm going through all this stuff, but I'm getting mentally stronger. I hope I don't have to deal with any other injuries again."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.