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08/18/09 9:45 PM ET
Rangers excited to play with Rodriguez
Veteran catcher adds experience for stretch run
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Rangers outfielder David Murphy didn't give it a second thought. He wore No. 7 in Little League, high school and again with the Rangers. But no more. He will gladly give it up for Ivan Rodriguez. "I'm not big on superstitions," Murphy said. "I'm definitely not going to keep it. He wore it here and for most of his career. I respect that." Rodriguez wore No. 7 when he was a 10-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner while with the Rangers from 1991-2002. He was wearing it again in a Texas uniform after he was acquired from the Astros on Tuesday. Murphy, who now wears No. 14, was among those in the Texas clubhouse who were thrilled with news that they acquired a likely future Hall of Fame catcher. "I couldn't be more excited," third baseman Michael Young said. "I played with Pudge for two years, he was a great teammate and obviously a great player. He played in two World Series and won one. All three playoff teams in Texas, he was a huge part of them. We've kept in touch and he always told me he wanted to come back. We're all excited about having him back." Rodriguez, 37, returns as a backup catcher. The Rangers made it clear that catcher Taylor Teagarden will be the starter and Rodriguez will likely start once or twice a week. "You couldn't ask for anything better as a backup," outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "It's really good, just because of the career he's had," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "He's someone you want on your team. He's been in the big leagues and he's had success in the game. He's somebody who can answer questions if anybody has them." Taylor Teagarden could be at the front of that line. Teagarden remains the Rangers' starting catcher but grew up in the Dallas area, and Rodriguez was one of his favorite players growing up. Now he can learn directly from the master. "Just the fact that he's Pudge and he's in our clubhouse is great," Teagarden said. "It will be nice to take it all in and learn from him. He's one of the best players in the game and one of the greatest catchers ever. There are great learning possibilities for me. I'm going to take advantage of it." Rodriguez won 10 Gold Gloves with the Rangers and three more after he left. With 13 overall, he has won more Gold Gloves than any other catcher in Major League history. He was the starting catcher for Texas when it won a division title in '96 and again in '98-99. He was the American League Most Valuable Player in '99. "There is only one Pudge," said Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who has known Rodriguez for over 20 years. "This is going to be good for the club. He's been through a lot of games and a lot of pressure situations and he's a winner. He'll fit in good. These players really respect Pudge." Rodriguez was hitting .251 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs in 93 games with the Astros this season. He's not the feared hitter that he once was, but Jaramillo still believes he can contribute significantly on the offensive side. "Pudge still has good bat speed," Jaramillo said. "I've got some ideas I think I can help him with. He can still hit." Rodriguez, in his prime, was renown for his throwing ability. He combined a power right arm with exceptional quick feet to lead the league just about every year in throwing out basestealers. In '99, when he was AL MVP, he threw out a career-best 52.5 percent. Even this season, at age 37, he had the third-best percentage in the National League (14-for-34, 29.2 percent) before being traded. "He's still able to intimidate you," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's not intimidating as he once was, but he's still intimidating." "He's the man here," infielder Omar Vizquel said. "He was the man from the beginning. He's part of the image that the Rangers built when they were a strong team. He's a great guy to have around." Vizquel was in the starting lineup Tuesday night to give Elvis Andrus a rest. But there will be times when the Rangers have a bench that includes Vizquel, Rodriguez and outfielder Andruw Jones. They have won a total of 34 Gold Gloves between the three of them, including 11 by Vizquel and 10 by Jones. "I don't think we can catch ground balls and fly balls from the dugout, but on foul balls we will be good," Vizquel said. "The guys in the dugout are well protected."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.