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Washington Nationals: Spring Training - Behind The Plate Pt. 2.

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The official story, as told nationwide by an anonymous AP writer in an article entitled, "Pudge Rodriguez settles in with another new club: Washington", has the Washington Nationals' new catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez "working" the Nationals' Spring clubhouse in Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium, "...like a savvy D.C. politician glad-handing at a fund-raiser," as the 38-year-old, 19-year MLB veteran introduced himself to teammates on his 4th team in the last three years. Jesus Flores in particular, the 25-year-old catcher rehabbing from surgery on his right elbow and shoulder, who reportedly idolized Rodriguez as a child, is said in the article to be "beaming" as he excitedly says, "Years ago, I was watching that guy on TV, and now I’m playing on the same team." 

In Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's Nationals Journal post entitled, "The battered, bruised and repaired shoulder of Jesus Flores", Mr. Harlan introduces fans to a different Jesus Flores, one who spent the winter alone in Miami rehabbing his injured shoulder, who is frustrated with, as Mr. Harlan puts it, "Almost too much to say," about his current situation...

According to Mr. Harlan's article, Flores is conflicted as he works to get himself back on the field:

"He's bitter about the injuries of the last year, and thinks (right or wrong) that they could have been prevented. Sometimes it sounds like he's blaming team doctors. Sometimes it sounds like he's blaming himself for continuing to throw when he sensed a bigger problem. Sometimes it sounds like he doesn't think anybody deserves blame, but just wants to let off some steam."

The Nationals, according to Mr. Harlan, "...view Flores as a slow healer, and they can't predict whether the months of injuries have eroded his ability," so Washington's signed Pudge Rodriguez and retained Wil Nieves' services as insurance, knowing that Flores won't be ready for the beginning of the season, and according to the AP writer who observed Rodriguez's arrival in camp, the veteran backstop no doubt sees an opportunity to make a significant contribution in 2010, "He showed up to camp in better shape than some 20-somethings, a clear sign of what drives the 14-time All-Star and 13-time Gold Glove winner." Rodriguez himself says, "I’m here to contribute. I’m here to help, to make a difference."  What role Jesus Flores will play this season depends solely upon his recovery, but don't count him out, remember when Paul Lo Duca was supposed to come in and take over behind the plate until Jesus Flores was ready to play full-time in 2008...

From 4 catchers combined last season, the Nationals got a .250 AVG, .310 OBP and a .356 SLG with 25 doubles, 11 HR's and 69 RBI's. Pudge Rodriguez, in what was clearly a down-year offensively, still produced a .249 AVG, with a .280 OBP and a .384 SLG with 23 doubles, 10 HR's and 45 RBI's on his own, but as the AP writer notes, "...Rodriguez wasn't really brought to Washington for his offense." Rodriguez knows why he's in DC, "My main job is defense behind the plate, to make the pitcher feel comfortable with me...That’s my game."