Results tagged ‘ Ivan Rodriguez ’

Day 5 in Viera: Defensive Versatility a Key in 2011

Happy
weekend to everyone, well except to the Nationals’ players and coaches. As we
all know, weekends don’t exist in baseball, so our pitchers and catchers were
back at it this morning under beautiful sunny skies in Viera. The high is
supposed to be 74 today. Very little wind, which is unusual for this area. I
know I am a bit redundant with my weather comments, but I hope everyone
understands that this has been the best February weather I have ever
experienced down here. It has been perfect. I am also hoping that this entices
all our fans from in/around DC to cut their winters short and visit us in the
Grapefruit League for a week or so. You won’t regret it.

Once
again, my name is John Dever and I am the PR Director for your Nationals. I
have a pair of fine gentlemen, Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna, that I work closely
with and we are sharing some of our top Nationals-centric observations with you
in hopes of revving up your engines for the upcoming season. On Mon., Feb. 28,
we will pass the blogging baton to Mark Lerner, who will share his unique
thoughts about the Nationals’ 2011 Grapefruit League efforts.

Here
are some of our Saturday-morning observations:

*
New arrivals today included Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Chris Marrero. Hairston is
going to be interesting to watch. This guy can play everywhere at anytime. In
the midst of a pennant race, Hairston served as the Padres’ regular shortstop
for much of the second half of 2010 as Everth Cabrera dealt with injuries. From
what I have gathered, and what O’s fans might recollect, Hairston’s best
position is second base. But don’t be shocked to see him playing a bit of
center field too. Hairston is going to be a very valuable player for Jim
Riggleman. I think this was one of Mike Rizzo’s most underrated signings of the
offseason.

*
Speaking of shortstop, it appears like Jim Riggleman might be using the
3-shortstop defensive alignment quite a bit this summer. What? Well, think
about it. First of all, Ian Desmond is a young shortstop. And a darn good one.
Then you have his pivoting partner, Danny Espinosa, the latest in a long line
of Long Beach State shortstops (Crosby, Tulowitzki, Longoria). Yes, he’ll be
playing second base this season in Washington, but he had only played shortstop
as a pro until being summoned to Syracuse last summer. And then we have this
guy named Ryan Zimmerman. You may have heard of him. Zimmerman played quite a
bit of shortstop at UVA before being drafted fourth overall in 2005. The
established presence of Mark Reynolds at UVA forced Zimmerman, then a freshman
(or a First Year as they like to say in Charlottesville), to shift over. And
let’s remember, Zimmerman has played a part in a handful of 4-5-3 or 6-5-3 GDPs
during his Big League career. He knows his way around the second-base bag. So,
keep Adam LaRoche and the 3-shortstop defense in the back of your minds this
summer at Nationals Park.

*
You might be surprised as to who the biggest NBA fan is among Nationals. How
long would it take you to guess Livan Hernandez? True story. Hernandez watches
games on ESPN, TBS and TNT all the time. This guy knows what is happening in
the Association. He plans to get up to an Orlando Magic game in the coming
weeks. But tonight, Hernandez is jacked about the dunk contest. He is hardly
the only one excited to see Blake Griffin tonight, but let’s remember that
JaVale McGee will represent the Wizards too. Here’s hoping McGee can do some
damage and represent The District.

*
Pudge Rodriguez is suddenly very into MLB’s First-Year Player Draft, and it has
nothing to do with the impending arrival of Bryce Harper to camp. Rather, Pudge
is interested to see how his son Ivan Dereck fares, as he is in his
draft-eligible season. Ivan Dereck is a center fielder and he is a wiry-strong
6-foot-2. He also closes games for Monsignor Pace (FL) High in Miami
Gardens (same HS from which Chris Marrero was drafted). Pudge says Ivan Dereck
can throw 90-92 mph, but his bat is too good to waste, so he sees him as a
center fielder. Ivan Dereck will be one to watch as we get into early June.

*
Book Club Note of the Day: DC-resident Josh Wilkie, the pride of George
Washington University, really enjoyed reading The Help, by Kathryn Stockett,
during the offseason. You can read more about The Help here.
Josh recently started reading Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton (no relation to
the former Nationals lefthander). Here is Stanton’s website.

We’ll be back at it tomorrow afternoon as we watch the final position
players trickle in. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Day 4 in Viera: Adam LaRoche Arrives

Hello everyone. We were glad to hear that things warmed up in/around DC today, someone said it got above 60 degrees. Well, it hit 83 today at the complex. Sunblock is mandatory, so if you come visit, please don’t forget your SPF 50.

My name is John Dever and I am your guest blogger for the next week or so. I am the PR Director for the Nationals and I will be drawing on the eyes and ears of Mike Gazda and Bill Gluvna. Mike and Bill have been around for many years and have forged hundreds of relationships and watched thousands of ballgames. Collectively, the three of us are holding down the fort for Mark Lerner, who will inherit this blog on Monday, February 28. Mark is looking forward to resuming the blog experience he began during the 2010 Winter Meetings.

Here are some of our observations from today …

*Every morning, 31-32 pitchers begin their workout with stretching and a game of simple catch. One of the pairings the last two days has been Livan Hernandez and Yunesky Maya. Obviously most know that both are from Cuba, and some of our most ardent fans may have read that Maya was a bat boy on Hernandez’s Cuban Industrial League team back in the early 90′s. So they know each other well. What caught my eye today was that they begin their throwing sessions with one another by throwing a “regulation” softball for the first 10-15 tosses. Their theory is that this exercise helps them gain better command of the baseball when they do switch over. Knowing Hernandez’s well-established pinpoint control, it is hard to argue with the notion.

*Today we saw Maya, John Lannan, Craig Stammen, Chad Gaudin and Sean Burnett, among others, debut with their bullpen sessions. Let’s just say, I cannot wait to see Maya in games next month.


Adam LaRoche introduced at Nats Park.JPG*Big arrival today among position players as Adam LaRoche rolled in with his nine-year-old son, Drake. LaRoche jumped right into the cage with the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Rick Ankiel, Laynce Nix and Nyjer Morgan. LaRoche looked refreshed and ready to go. Meanwhile, Drake will likely be hosting his own talk show within two to three years. He had a lot of people laughing all afternoon around the complex. He has quite the personality.

*When contemplating the future of Wilson Ramos, remember who he has been learning under. Pudge Rodriguez and Joe Mauer. Wilson told Mike Gazda today that he has had and continues to have a strong relationship with Mauer, and that his interaction with Pudge late last season was fantastic. Both players shared their experiences and knowledge freely and their encouragement toward Ramos did not go unnoticed. Who wants to bet that someday down the line Ramos will have a similar relationship with a young up-and-coming catcher? What comes around will undoubtedly go around.

*Little known fact: Sean Burnett is actually right-handed. Yes. That is no misprint. Sean does EVERYTHING (eat, drive, write) right-handed except pitch, bat and golf. Per Burnett, his theory is that he mimicked his left-handed father, Rich Burnett, his entire childhood. One of the interesting aspects of this discussion was that Sean says he can’t throw a football left-handed at all. He says he likely could not throw a football 10 feet. But he can hurl a football pretty well from the right side in case you were wondering.

*Book Club Note of the Day: Ross Detwiler is currently reading “When Men Win Glory,” the Pat Tillman story written by Jon Krakauer. Maybe we’ll have him file a book report for us next week.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more on the eve of the report date for position players.

30 Players in 30 Days: Ivan “Pudge” Rodgriguez


91010-362 ivan rodriguez.JPGEven though the Nationals didn’t make it to the World Series this year, “Pudge” Rodriguez did–sort of–when he returned to his former home in Texas to catch Nolan Ryan’s ceremonial pitch before Game 3 between the Giants and the Rangers. It certainly will not be the last time Pudge is asked to take part in such a ceremonial pitch. The future Hall-of-Famer has amassed 14 All-Star selections, 13 Golden Glove Awards and seven Silver Sluggers in 20 years in the Big Leagues. And he’s not done yet.

He’s 183 hits away from recording his 3,000th hit. He’s smashed over 300 home runs as a catcher alone–that’s good enough for second most among all catchers since 1974. Over his career, he’s thrown out 41.6 percent of baserunners attempting to steal–the third highest percentage of any catcher of all time.

The Nationals knew on December 11, 2009–the day they signed Pudge to a two-year contract–exactly what they were getting. While Pudge’s name will go down among the greats, the team did not expect a season highlighted by career highs or even numbers comparable to his best years. Yet the team got exactly what it wanted from Pudge Rodriguez in 2010.

The Nats leaned on Pudge’s veteran leadership and his proven experience all season. In June, he returned from the 15-day disabled list just in time to catch Stephen Strasburg’s introduction to the Majors–the 14-strikeout, zero-walks-in-seven-complete-innings debut that will go down as one of the greatest debuts of all time. Then in September, he spent the month mentoring Wilson Ramos, the Nationals probable catcher of the future.

Pudge is a stable force, a durable presence behind the plate who saw action in 111 of 162 games in 2010. He is the experienced veteran whose reputation precedes him. Nationals coaches know full well the effect Pudge has on other teams, simply by his presence alone.

“We got Pudge [behind the plate], you see opposing players aren’t trying to run on us very much,” First Base Coach Dan Radison explained. “Their steal attempts, I’m sure, are way down against the Nationals because of his abilities and his reputation. A catcher that people know can really throw, basically they don’t run as much. So while he might not be leading the League in throwing guys out, there ain’t nobody going.” (Note: he did, however, lead the League in 2006 by throwing out 45.7% of baserunners attempting to steal).

Young and old alike respect him. Rookie Drew Storen explained the type of eye-opening experience professional players undergo playing alongside him. Storen says the first time he realized he had finally reached his childhood dream occurred one day in Spring Training: “I would say the first time that it kind of hit me, okay this is kind of cool was when I came in to pitch against the Braves and Pudge was catching. He came out to the mound when I came into the game. That was probably the first time that I really thought this is kind of cool.”

Pudge’s value is in his unparalleled experience that allows him to be a contributing factor both in the clubhouse and on the field. One day, Nats fans will look back and be thankful for this opportunity to watch a legend play in a Nationals uniform, although for two way-too-short years.

 

 

The Fans Choice Bobblehead is in


Pudge Bobblehead No. 1.jpgIvan “Pudge” Rodriguez has been selected by Nationals fans to be featured as this season’s Fans Choice Bobblehead. In his first season in Washington, Rodriguez is batting .295 with 26 RBI and one homerun and has provided a spark to the bottom of the order. The bobbleheads, presented by PNC Bank, will be given to the first 15,000 fans attending the Nationals game on Saturday, August 28 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

For the first time in team history fans were given the opportunity to cast their votes for their favorite player to receive the bobblehead honor. Voting took place in March and April on Nationals.com. The Fan Choice bobblehead is the last in a three-part series: the first was a Ryan Zimmerman Gold Glove/Silver Slugger bobblehead that commemorated Zimmerman’s unique achievement in receiving both awards during the 2009 season, while the second will feature Nationals outfielder Nyjer Morgan and will be given out before the July 31 game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Game 1 of 162 and some early season projections


Nationals Park Opening Day 2010.jpgThere are 2,430 scheduled baseball games for the 2010 season and only 13 of them were played yesterday, just one half of 1 percent of all the games. There was one game on Sunday and the Rays and O’s start their seasons tonight.

“There are 161 more to go,” Ian Desmond said. “Just because we lost one game 11-1, it’s just like losing 2-1. It doesn’t really matter.”

At the end of the day, Opening Day is just another day. It is just one of the 162 games, but the Opener is always magnified: the pomp and circumstance before the start, the President throwing out the first pitch, the sold-out park, the beautiful weather and knowing that driving in two runs leaves you on pace to have 324 RBI when the season is done. It just has a different feel to it.

It is tradition following Opening Day–like eating pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving Day–to see the regular season projections for a few players that preformed well for one game and see what they are on-pace to do during the 162-game marathon. We will forget for a few seconds that the sample size is only one game and the odds of the projections actually happening are zero. So don’t bet the farm on these projections–sample sizes of one game have the tortoise losing to the hare every time–and don’t bet your friend that Placido Polanco is going to drive in 972 runs. He is projected to do that though… and just maybe he will. It is mathematically possible. Here are five things that could happen but won’t happen because being mathematically possible isn’t the same as being mathematically practical. 

·         The Blue Jays’ Adam Lind is batting 1.000 (3-for-3) with one home run, two runs and an RBI. He is projected to bat 1.000 (486-for-486)–move aside Ted Williams–with 162 home runs, 162 RBI and 234 runs.

·         The Phillies’ Placido Polanco didn’t waste any time making his presence known in the power, home run hitting Philadelphia lineup. He went 3-for-5 with a grand slam and six RBI. He is projected to have 486 hits, 162 home runs and a measly 972 RBI, not a bad season.

·         If Albert Pujols wasn’t the front runner for his third straight NL MVP award, he is now. He went 4-for-5 with four runs, two home runs and three RBI to lead the Cardinals to an 11-6 win over the Reds. That is just an average day at the park for Pujols. He is project to have 648 hits and runs, 324 home runs, 486 RBI and one MVP award.

·         Jason Heyward is going to be a star, that isn’t a projection, just a fact. The 20-year-old blasted a 433-foot, three-run home run to right in his first Major League at-bat to turn Turner Field into a tizzy. The 6-foot-4, 220-lb right fielder finished 2-for-5 with four RBI, a home run and two runs. He is projected to have 324 hits, 162 home runs, 648 RBI and one memorable career.

·         Pudge Rodriguez is 38 years young but it is tough to guess that. He made his Nationals debut yesterday with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate including two doubles. Pudge inched closer to being the next member of the illustrious 3,000 hit club and only needs 286 hits. At this pace, he is projected to join the club on July 23, 2010 at Miller Park in Milwaukee. All he needs to do is get three hits every game and not miss a start… as a catcher.

And let’s not forget that 14 teams right now are projected to go 162-0… so much for these projections.

Washington welcomes Pudge


 
Pudge Rizzo.JPGJune 19, 1991. The date probably doesn’t mean anything to you but it was the beginning of an era for a young, stocky 19-year-old nicknamed Pudge–a nickname that originated right from his physical attributes and 5-foot-9 frame. Ivan Rodriguez was scheduled to get married that day in between games of a double header. It didn’t quite go as planned.

He was called into the manager’s office and was told he had to delay the wedding because he was going to the Big Leagues. His manager told him he would only be there for 15 days. Well, 15 days passed and he was still playing. Now 18 years have passed. And yeah, he is still playing.

June 20, 1991. It was an unforgettable day for Ivan Rodriguez. He made his Major League debut and drove in two runs with his first Major League hit, capping off the Rangers five-run, ninth-inning rally to beat the White Sox 7-3. He threw out a pair of would-be base stealers too.

Almost 18 and half years–half his life–and 14 All-Star games, 13 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards later, we know it  wasn’t an accident. It was just an average day at the ballpark. It was Pudge being Pudge.

If baseball was Greek mythology, he would be Hercules. Among catchers with 1,000 games caught, Rodriguez is first in games caught (2,288), runs (1,308), hits (2,711), doubles (547) and extra-base hits (902). Those are all nice but he can’t refrain from mentioning that he threw seven no-hitters in Little League.

“They are still talking about that today,” Rodriguez said.


Pudge 2.JPGPeople have always been talking about Rodriguez since he debuted in the Majors. The numbers, the accolades and the gold gloves, they speak for themselves.

“It is an exciting day for Washington Nationals family,” GM Mike Rizzo said. “We get to introduce certainly the greatest catcher in our generation and, quite possibly, the greatest catcher in the history of baseball.”

Now that is saying something. It might not be far from the truth either.

The Nationals started the offseason with a well drafted blueprint: upgrade the bullpen, acquire a veteran starting pitcher, sign a defensive catcher and improve up the middle. It is starting to take shape now. They bolstered the bullpen on Monday trading for reliever Brian Bruney and today they officially signed a future Hall-of-Famer in Rodriguez.

As expected with a 38-year-old catcher, his batting average has steadily declined the last four seasons and his best years are behind him offensively. It may not be the prime of Pudge’s career but he can still play baseball. He has 289 hits to go before he reaches the illustrious 3,000 hit club and he has every intention of accomplishing that feat. It is a goal for him but he still wants to win.

It is still unclear how much he will play in 2010. He started 108 games at catcher in 2009, 95 in ’08, 119 in ’07 and 121 in ’06. His main job will be mentoring catcher Jesus Flores, 25, and the young pitching staff.

Flores is still recovering from a torn right labrum but while his health status is still uncertain, Rizzo said he will be healthy for the start of Spring Training. But don’t be surprised if Rodriguez carries the bulk of the work load during the 2010 season. He has his whole career. He is a machine. The future Hall-of-Famer still has knees like a 28-year-old–how else could you start 108 games in baseball’s most demanding position at the age of 37?

“I am ready to play every day,” Rodriguez said. “I am a player that still can play every day and I will play every day.”

Of course, he knows he can’t start 162 games, but maybe 110. He will accept the role that is best for the team.

Maybe more important than his offensive or defensive skills, are the intangible attributes Pudge brings to the clubhouse. He is a hard working, friendly, follow-by-example team leader that will do anything and everything to win. Rodriguez has been a key catalyst for change too. See the 2003 Marlins or the post-2003 Tigers. He signed with the Marlins in 2003 and we all know what happened–they beat the Yankees in six games to win the World Series. He was the MVP of the NLCS, hitting .321 with a record 10 RBI as Florida came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Chicago Cubs in seven games which is most notably remembered for the Steve Bartman incident.

The following season, he helped orchestrate the Tigers turnaround. He nearly led the perennial cellar dwellers to a championship in three seasons. They improved 29.0 games in 2004, a year after losing 119 games. They made it to the World Series in 2006. Next up… the Nationals.


Pudge media 1.JPG
Pudge media 2.JPG“My goal is to support the whole team and to win ballgames,” Rodriguez said. “You have to play 27 hard outs and if you do that every game, you are going to win a lot of games. Basically, that’s my philosophy. That’s the way I play the game and that’s what I plan to bring to the ballclub.” 

December 11, 2009. It was a memorable afternoon for the Nationals. Rodriguez smiled ear to ear putting on a Nationals jersey. Then again, being able to put on a jersey every day has been the favorite part of his celebrated career. 

No matter what kind of numbers he puts up on the field, he will make a difference in Washington, DC. His numbers may be declining but his positive mentality and friendly demeanor haven’t changed. His nickname may no longer apply–slimmer, faster and built with a body most 18-year-olds dream of nowadays–but it stuck and it won’t change. He doesn’t want to change his nickname… the Immortal Ivan.

“I like Pudge,” he said.

He just wants to change the ways in Washington.

 

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