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Pudge Rodriguez, First Baseman

Pudge Rodriguez has already turned heads with what he's done as the Puerto Rican catcher at the World Baseball Classic. He got off to a blazing start in a Game One rout of Panama, and he hasn't really looked back since, eventually being named MVP of the San Juan round after his team advanced as that bracket's undefeated winner. Hey, the guy finished the first round hitting .545 with two home runs, five RBIs, and 13 total bases, so what's not to like? All of that has made him more marketable as a hitter, but there's an emerging strain of thought that Rodriguez could return to the bigs this season as a first baseman, not behind the plate.

According to MLB.com's Will Gonzalez, Rodriguez has been working out at first base with Puerto Rico manager Jose Oquendo, a longtime infield guru, and could shift into the infield if a team thinks he's a fit there.

Evidently, Rodriguez is fairly serious about the shift; he was taking pointers from Carlos Delgado about playing the position at a recent practice. This telling quote, which reads almost like media positioning, is from Gonzalez's piece:

"It is not a foreign position for him -- he has played first base in the Majors," Delgado said, alluding to the 55 innings in seven games that Rodriguez played at first base for the Detroit Tigers in 2006. Rodriguez committed only one error and recorded 56 putouts as a first baseman.

So, which teams would sign him as a first baseman? The Marlins clearly have significant interest, and while there have been big issues about playing time behind the plate (Rodriguez wants to catch five days a week ) some of those might be mitigated by fitting him in at first base half the time. The Marlins dealt first baseman Mike Jacobs, and neither Gaby Sanchez or Wes Helms are anywhere near established enough at the position to keep Rodriguez from stealing time from whoever wins the starting job.

Is this a case of looking for smoke before a fire has started? Maybe, but there's an awful lot of smoke out there. We'll see if any more comes from the first base workouts, or whether Rodriguez hits his way to another team that will take him as a catcher, without restrictions.

By Cameron Smith  |  March 13, 2009; 4:12 PM ET
Categories:  Marlins  
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Comments

He's hot now, but in a suspect spring training-ish WBC and in a very limited number of plate appearances. He has something like 18 HR's in his last 1000 AB's in real baseball; he doesn't get on base; he's 36? and he can't really throw much anymore. He's going to be hard-pressed to get a gig that gives him the AB's he wants. So, maybe this 1B thing is to make him look like a super-utility type and create some more options for the guy.

Posted by: dfh123 | March 13, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

He has value at C, but no value at 1B. He'd be an average fielder without the production a corner infield spot is supposed to bring to the table. If you're getting 8 homers and a 320 OBP with no slugging from your 1B you're toast.

If he's going for the guy who gives everyone a day off, like dfh suggested, then maybe. But consistent starts at 1B is asking to fall out of the race.

Posted by: adampschroeder | March 13, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

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