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Ivan Rodriguez, your National League batting leader

When the Nationals acquired Ivan Rodriguez this off-season, the generally accepted line of thinking was that he would be a nice complement to Jesus Flores. He could mentor Flores while sharing time and give the Nationals a future Hall of Famer to serve as a clubhouse presence. He would play great defense, and any offense would be found money.

Two weeks into the season. Rodriguez has slugged that conventional wisdom into smithereens. Rodriguez, 38 and in his 19th season, leads the National League in hitting with a .444 average. He went 3 for 4 with two doubles in the Nationals' 11-7 loss to the Brewers today, raising his on-base average to over .500 and giving him a .605 slugging percentage.

"Just seeing the ball, stay back, try to use my hands, basically," Rodriguez said. "I'm relaxed. I feel very well right now. I just want to stay right there. I just wait for a good pitch to hit and swing."

In a small sample size, Rodriguez has been nothing less than one of the league's best offensive players. Rarely have his hits been cheap; Rodriguez has smacked line drives to all fields. Manager Jim Riggleman said he is pleased, not surprised, by Rodirguez's fast start. But given Rodriguez's recent history, his production materialized from thin air.

From 2007 to 2009, Rodriguez hit .269 with a .297 on-base percentage and a .401 slugging percentage. His OPS+ over that span was 81. His days as even a league-average hitter, it seemed, were finished.

This offseason, Rodriguez studied old videos of his swing from earlier in his career. He watched his younger self keep his hands inside the ball as he swung. Entering this spring training, he altered his stance. He figured he still had enough of his old ability to make his old mechanics work again.

"I still have some quick hands," Rodriguez said. "Those things are working very good right now. I feel great."

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 18, 2010; 7:27 PM ET
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Next: Miguel Batista gave up a grand slam, then gave the Nationals a chance


What a great success story this signing has been. Thanks for the details, Adam.

Posted by: thepostischeap | April 18, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

I think Pudge has the makeup to one day be a very good pitching coach or even a manager, i'd love to see him work with Strasburg that's why i'm in favor of bringing him up yeah that's what i said bring him up NOW!! look he ain't learning a thing in the minor's if he's as good as advertised then he could have pitched today after Marquis was sent to the showers hell i would have started Strasburg, fan's would flock to the ballpark and if handled the right way the kid could contribute instantly my only issue would be McCatty and whether Strasburg under his tutelage would get better.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 18, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait for Strasburg AND Storen, but with the team at .500, why rush them? The last thing I want to see is a young arm throwing too many innings, which is what happened to Kerry Wood. I like the way the focus has been on long-term success. Maybe the Nats can become annual contenders like Kasten's old team. Strasburg and Storen are cornerstones of the Nat's future. Pudge will get to work with them in a few months. Great offseason acquisition! The future for this team looks bright!

Posted by: dannykurland1 | April 18, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

I hope Pudge bottles whatever he is stirring up in his kitchen....I know this old man would buy a pallet!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | April 18, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

In an interview on MASN, Pudge said he's been making good contact over the past few years, but his hits were finding gloves. Now they're finding grass.

I knew it couldn't be that simple. Thanks for giving us the other part of the story, Adam.

Posted by: JohninMpls | April 18, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

He's not going to finish the year hitting .450, but he doesn't need to. Everybody is reminded he can still get incandescent for weeks at a time, and that will help even when he's not hitting like this.
But a question: He didn't hit .450 any other full year, obviously, so "out of thin air" would seem to mean he hasn't had a comparable two-week stretch. Has he?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 18, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Just until the Roids wear off. Don't get crazy on us now poeple. I-Roid, A-Roid, Big-Pap-Smear, Manny Roid, Ankiel, McGuire, Sosa, Bonds, Clemons, Brian Roiderts - all frauds.

Posted by: billm32 | April 19, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

With his past, anything Rodriguez does should be taken with a grain of salt (or some illegal substance). If this guy's still hitting lights out come Memorial Day, I want him tested.

Posted by: ShovelPlease | April 19, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I wish I had a buck for every PED user who claimed his sudden improvement was due to a change in his batting stance. Seriously.

Posted by: gbooksdc | April 19, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

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