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Posted at 2:50 PM ET, 02/16/2011

Ivan Rodriguez is happy to help Wilson Ramos and Jesus Flores, but he says he can still play, too

By Adam Kilgore

Ivan Rodriguez has had a Hall of Fame-caliber career, so the circumstance in which he finds himself now is foreign. He arrived today at Nationals spring training in the middle of a crowded catching situation, fending off players who are 13 and 15 years younger than he is, without a guarantee he will emerge with a firm grip on the starting position.

Rodriguez, 39, said he's happy to have Jesus Flores and Wilson Ramos in the fold. He talked only about working with, and not competing against, them. He also made clear he thinks there has more baseball left inside him.

"I'm glad that we have three good catchers on our ball club," Rodriguez said. "You don't find that on a lot of teams, and that's a positive thing about this organization. The catchers that we have, we have myself, and we have two very talented catchers, very young with a lot of talent. It's always nice to have that in an organization.

"For me, I still have a lot in my game. I am feeling very good, physically, mentally."


The Nationals' catching situation is one of the most interesting subplots of the spring. Flores, once one of the Nationals' most promising players, is healthy after missing all of 2010 and most of 2009 with a shoulder injury. Ramos, whom the Nationals acquired by trading closer Matt Capps to the Twins, may have supplanted Flores as the team's catcher of the future. And then there is Rodriguez, signed in December 2009 to a two-year contract.

How will Manager Jim Riggleman sort it all out?

"I don't know," Rodriguez said. "That's not my decision. That's Jim's. The only thing I can tell you is I come here, and my goal is just to win ballgames. My main goal is just to have a good team together, stay positive as a team and contribute my part. I'm feeling great. I still feel like I can play this game for plenty of time. I'm always ready to contribute."

Rodriguez's stature in the game is unparalleled, but his ability has inevitably waned with age. Last season, after a blistering start, Rodriguez hit .266/.294/.347 (average/on-base/slugging) with four home runs in 111 games. He landed on the disabled list in May with a bad back, and he sputtered down the stretch, hitting .237/.262/.308 from July to the end of the year.

Rodriguez said he "absolutely" wants to play several years beyond this one. Rodriguez, long a workout fiend, altered his offseason program. He spent less time on cardiovascular conditioning and more on weight training, and he said he gained four pounds of muscle.

"I think is going to help me late in the season," Rodriguez said. "That's my goal. I feel like I'm a big part of this team to bring this team to a winning level. I'm going to try to do my best to make that happen. My main thing is just to stay healthy."

Part of Rodriguez's role this season will be serving as a mentor to Flores and Ramos. Last year, Ramos beamed at the prospect of playing with Rodriguez, whom he grew up idolizing. While Rodriguez thinks he's got plenty left, he's also embracing the idea of helping Flores and Ramos, the catchers who could sap his playing time.

"We get along well," They respect me a lot. I respect them very much. Like I said, it's two guys, Flores and Ramos, we're going to work hard. We're going to work a lot. I'm going to talk to them in spring training. I'm that kind of person. I want other people to do great. I want [Flores] to stay healthy. That's the main thing. The more healthy this ball club is, the better it's going to be. We're going to work together. We're all going to try to do the things that we have to do."

By Adam Kilgore  | February 16, 2011; 2:50 PM ET
Categories:  Ivan Rodriguez  
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Next: Can Livan Hernandez do it again?


Awesome! Gotta love Pudge's attitude!

Posted by: mjwies11 | February 16, 2011 2:53 PM | Report abuse

It will be interesting to see how the Nationals plan out their catching future after Pudge leaves following the 2010 season.

Both Ramos and Flores are "plus" defenders with some scouts downright giddy about Ramos' future. Offensively, most scouts think Ramos is capable of .275-15-60 type of numbers playing full time.

Over his three major league seasons, Flores' at-bats total a full major league season, and he has done well: .260/.313/.406, 16 HR and 99 RBI.

If the Nationals create a right-right platoon, the two could likely be counted on to combine to hit .275-20-80, give-or-take.

That's why I don't think Derek Norris will ever become the team's every-day catcher. With the new emphasis on defense, I can't see Mike Rizzo moving either Ramos or Flores.

Norris could either become a major piece of a trade that would bring a top-flight starter or he might be the heir apparent at first if he can play enough defense there.

Norris has averaged 26 homers and 98 RBI in the minors over 550 at-bats (along with a whopping .414 OBP)and has even averaged 13 stolen bases.

With that kind of (relative) speed, he just might be able to play first.

Posted by: rushfari | February 16, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I can never figure out the get rid of Pudge crowd. At 39 he's still the best defensive catcher in the organization. Ramos might eventually become a good defensive catcher but he'll never be Pudge and Flores will never come close. At 39 you don't want to give him the kind of workload he had last year. Get his workload down and bat him 8th in the order like he should be and he'll be much more than just adequate. All indications are that Norris is the best of the bunch and the future catcher, so let him replace Pudge when he is ready. In the meantime, figure out if either Ramos or Flores is your second catcher. Trade the odd man out. With any luck even the other guy will be too good to ride the pine and you'll have another tradeable part. Pudge doesn't have a lot of trade value due to age and salary but he fits in with the Nats if used correctly.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | February 16, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

I got to know Flores when he was property of the Mets in Hagerstown at low A ball.
He is just a great kid who works his butt off.
I watched him call some great games and demonstrate a really accurate and strong arm.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | February 16, 2011 3:28 PM | Report abuse

All of these guys are major league caliber catchers.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | February 16, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Kilgore, if you and Goessling and Zuckerman are going to just march in lockstep through story topics this spring, would it be too much to ask that one of you at least try to mix things up by asking a whack question every now and then? You know, like when Pudge tells you he's added four pounds of muscle over the winter, ask him if when he does that does he modify the life-size statue of himself in his backyard to reflect it, in much the same way as mere mortals let the waistline of their pants in and out when they put on weight? You never know, you might actually uncover something interesting that way. And if by chance your interview subject doesn't like your line of questioning and cuts you off, you've still got the other two guys' notes to crib from. So come on. Ditch the typos, ditch the long toss, and liven things up around here!

Posted by: FeelWood | February 16, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm squarely in the start Pudge, keep Ramos or Flores, and trade one of the young guys camp. Gotta love what Pudge brings to the clubhouse and young pitcher development.

My question is, what would we get in a trade? I'm assuming Ramos would fetch a better deal, and I'm fine with letting him go if Flores proves heathy. There have got to be some teams out there that need a good young catcher, who are they? Do they have any starting pitcher depth?

Posted by: paj133 | February 16, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Ignore the Dipsh*t/Troll. Please.

Posted by: Section505203 | February 16, 2011 2:33 PM

I didn't know your mamma and/or boyfriend posted on here section5053040340303.

As for Pudge, I can totally see him helping Flores and them use steroids like Pudge has.

That's the only way he'll help these guys become more than AAAA players. Of course AAAA players are right up the Natinals alley.

As for all the Randy Savage comments, thanks for making my point. His baseball stats (and even playing now at his age) would be an improvement over most of the players the Natinals will run out there day-in and day-out.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 16, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Pudge starts, then see how it goes. Pudge's get-it-done approach is gold for the young catchers to learn from. Just watching Pudge *Watch* the game from the bench is a learning experience. I love Flores too, but with his long lay off, maybe best for him to start at AAA. Hope Ramos lives up to his potential, cuz everyone seems to love him. Should be plenty of day games for him to play, plus a few nites.

Posted by: evanpt | February 16, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Like it or not the Nats are going to lose close to 100 games this season. A 90-year old veteran backstop is hardly a necessity. Keep the best young guy, get him some experience and get the best deal that you can for the other 2. But don't ask for 2 much and get nothing ala Soriano and Dunn. Aint rocket science.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 16, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Guess you can now call this sports writer a "troll".
But sometimes the truth is the truth.
This from a national sports site, talking about the Nats,

"What looks bad: Well, the offense is correspondingly worse. Also, Livan Hernandez is their putative ace and Nyjer Morgan is being asked to lead off and not to act like a big jerkhead baby, two tasks for which he seems singularly unsuited.
Prediction: Just biding time until Harper and Strasburg arrive (or re-arrive, as it were)."

As Kurt V would say, And so it goes.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 16, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Nah, nothing about that speaks "troll" to me. However, it does get a bit tiresome when one can find absolutely nothing worthy of optimism. I mean, it is your prerogative to continually believe the worst will happen, but you can't get upset with the folks who take you to task for that.

I'm sure the Nats will see their share of losses this year, but do you honestly believe that this team is a 100 loss team? I mean, really, honestly, truly believe that? Cool if you do, but I'm unsure how that could possibly be the case.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | February 16, 2011 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Why would there be a problem with the current catching corps? Between Pudge, Ramos & Flores, the Nationals have a 'three-headed monster' behind the plate defensively. Stash the 'loser' of the Ramos/Flores battle in Syracuse to start the season, and wait for a team to either become dis-satisfied with their CA choices, or suffer an injury. A B+ prospect could be a likely return for any of them, imo. Add on a player like Norris in the wings, and the Nationals may finally have the upper-hand in a possible trade scenario.

Posted by: BinM | February 16, 2011 8:47 PM | Report abuse

>>but do you honestly believe that this team is a 100 loss team? I mean, really, honestly, truly believe that?

Easily. I can't believe you don't. And probably most peeps except a few diehard fans around here, feel the same as I do.
Which starting pitchers are any of the wins coming from? We've still got Morgan leading off. And last I looked the leadership or lack thereof on this team was still coming from DoubleSwitch, one of the worst managers in baseball. How could you think otherwise.
Managers matter. A picthing rotation matters. We've got neither.

Posted by: dovelevine | February 16, 2011 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Norris is an MLB batter today. Left field or 1st base. They have to get this bat in the line up. Pudge + Ramos bat them 8th. Flores I don't think will ever bat enough.

Posted by: joeortega4 | February 16, 2011 11:17 PM | Report abuse

"Which starting pitchers are any of the wins coming from? We've still got Morgan leading off. And last I looked the leadership or lack thereof on this team was still coming from DoubleSwitch, one of the worst managers in baseball. How could you think otherwise."

All of that was true last year, yet they did not lose 100 games. Take away Strasburg's five wins and they still didn't lose 100. So why is it a dead bolt lock that they'll lose 100 this year? Your logic eludes me.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 16, 2011 11:19 PM | Report abuse

>>Take away Strasburg's five wins and they still didn't lose 100.

Ya got me there. Ok, make it 98. Feel better? I sure don't.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 16, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Managers matter. A picthing rotation matters. We've got neither.

Posted by: dovelevine | February 16, 2011 10:29 PM

Excellent point and right on the money because...

Buck Showalter and the mighty O's pitching staff say hello.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 16, 2011 11:47 PM | Report abuse

"Flores I don't think will ever bat enough."

Have you looked at Flores' hitting stats? I know that Ramos doesn't have much of a track record yet, but if he can hit as well as Flores has (admittedly not a huge sample, but larger than Ramos), then I would take him over Flores. It is not clear yet whether Ramos will be able to hit better than Flores has.

Posted by: bertbkatz | February 17, 2011 12:13 AM | Report abuse

"Like it or not the Nats are going to lose close to 100 games this season."

Skins Fan 22

As Donald Rumsfield said, "You don't know what you don't know." Unless, of course, you are Skins Fan 22, who prefaces every comment with a mantra of negativism.

Posted by: driley | February 17, 2011 6:56 AM | Report abuse

Norris' value is that he can play the defensive position of catcher and also hit. He loses all of his value if you move him to first base or left field. The guy is not a Harper type hitter. He'd be another Marrero. This guy is either going to make it as a catcher or not at all.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | February 17, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

You keep all 3 catchers on the roster, at least to start the season.they can learn more from Pudge sitting next to him on the bench than in AAA. Hope that Pudge hits in the 275-290 range and then trade him to a good playoff team for a really good prospect. He will not be here next year either way, might as well get another piece and trade him. Let Pudge teach until July and then off he goes, and thank him for his time and efforts.

Posted by: RichC3 | February 17, 2011 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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