What uniform will 39-year-old, 21-year veteran Pudge Rodriguez be wearing when (and if) he eventually reaches 3,000 career hits? In the latest edition of Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo's weekly Sunday "Baseball Notes" column entitled, "Those reports of Rays’ demise were premature", Mr. Cafardo talks to Nats' bench coach John McLaren about the Nationals' Future Hall of Fame backstop, who, according to the Boston Globe baseball writer, is motivated to hang around a few more years because he, "...wants to be the first catcher to reach the 3,000-hit plateau,":
"Bench coach John McLaren said Rodriguez is still very good behind the plate at 39. 'He controls the running game and he really manages the game like he always did,' said McLaren. 'He’s still very good at blocking balls.' Offense is where Rodriguez has declined, but he appears to be a pretty good risk for a team that needs a veteran catcher."
Pudge started the first year of his 2-year/$6M dollar deal with the Nats strong, posting a surprising but unsustainable .413/.449/.524 line in the first 18 games and 63 at bats as a National, but then a .233/.242/.350 May followed, and a .250/.284/.297 June, .176/.195/.230 July, .277/.286/.313 August and a .259/.317/.407 September/October which left the veteran of 20 MLB seasons with a .266/.294/.347 slash line, 18 doubles, 4 HR's, 49 RBI's and the second-highest GiDP total of his Hall-of-Fame-worthy career with 25. Pudge's 2010 totals were a slight improvement over what he did in' 09, but far off the .298/.334/.466 career line he's averaged every 162 games since his MLB debut in 1991. Defensively in 2010, Pudge made just 4 errors behind the plate, with a .995 fld% and a 34% (22 of 64) CS%.
Rodriguez has played in just 15 of the Nats' first 34 games this season, having handed the (slight) majority of the starts to 23-year-old Wilson Ramos. In 15 games and 54 plate appearances, Rodriguez has a .231/.259/.346 slash with three doubles and a HR. Pudge has thrown out 4 of 10 (40%) would-be basestealers with a .990 fld% in 126.2 innings behind the plate. Ramos, in his first extended stretch in the majors, has a .319/.377/.493 line with six doubles and two HR's in 22 games and 77 plate appearances, with a .984 fld% in 168.0 innings over which he's thrown out 4 of 11 (36%) basestealers.
Jesus Flores' return to full-time action will no doubt influence the Nats' plans with Pudge, if it's not Flores himself who eventually gets dealt. The 26-year-old one-time Mets' prospect swiped in the '06 Rule 5 Draft, is coming off a 25-game stint in the Venezuelan Winter League where he hit .322 (28 of 87) with 6 doubles, 2 HR's, 16 RBI's, a .365 OBP and a .460 SLG. Flores is currently starting at Triple-A Syracuse where he's hit in 8 of his last ten games, posting a .259/.259/.379 slash line with seven doubles, no walks and 15 K's in 16 games and 58 at bats. While other teams, most notably the Astros, at one time this Spring expressed interest in Flores, the shoulder that kept him out of action for nearly two years has proven a concern.
While the Boston Red Sox had once expressed at least a mild interest in Pudge Rodriguez, at least according to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, who wrote in an article entitled, "Pirates not eager to move Snyder", that the veteran backstop was, "on the Red Sox’s potential wish list," along with the Pirates' Chris Snyder and free agent catcher Bengie Molina, Mr. Rosenthal now reports that, "The Sox are cool on the Nationals' Ivan Rodriguez," as he wrote this weekened in a story entitled, "Extra Innings: Lowrie helps out BoSox." Will there be a market for Pudge? The FOXSports.com reporter wrote in the late April article that much like the Pirates with Snyder, "The Nats could pose a similar problem," for teams in need of a backstop, "with their demands for Rodriguez, who is rapidly losing time to Wilson Ramos."
Ramos, as Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman explained in a recent MLB Network Radio interview, was, "a great acquisition last year," from the Minnesota Twins, "...who Mike Rizzo thought was going to be the catcher of the future here and it's looking like that's the way it's going to be. He's just a strong, bull of a young man. He can really throw, blocks the ball well, pitchers love throwing to him and then, you top it off by...the ball really jumps off his bat."
"He's played a lot of baseball," Riggleman continued, "he's young but he plays Winter ball every year. He's paid his dues. He's ready to be here in the big leagues, and he's catching pretty much getting towards two out of three. Pudge is doing a great job in what he's doing on the club and really mentoring Ramos, but this Ramos has got a chance to be like [Carlos] Santana in Cleveland and a couple of other young catchers in the game. He's got a chance to be a really big time catcher in the league."
It's going to take a long time to collect 171 hits playing one out of every three games, but is there anywhere in the majors that Pudge will play more than he's playing now with the Nats?