Mets Interested in Pudge Rodriguez?

Ivan Rodriguez looked as feisty as ever, explaining why he's physically and mentally ready to play baseball.

The 14-time All-Star catcher, though, is still looking for a place to play.

Rodriguez said he might sign soon with the Florida Marlins, Houston Astros or New York Mets.

Or, he might need to stay patient.

"I don't know where I'm going to play, but a team is going to win the lotto when I sign," Rodriguez said Sunday night in an interview with The Associated Press. "I still feel I can play three or four more years, to be honest, because of the way I take care of myself."

The way Rodriguez took care of himself in the past has been questioned, most notably by former teammate Jose Canseco.

Rodriguez's mood changed when that subject was broached during a wide-ranging interview in his 44th-floor apartment overlooking Miami Beach.

Is the 37-year-old star known as Pudge on the list of 104 players who tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey?

"Only God knows," Rodriguez said softly.

Canseco, a former teammate in Texas, has alleged he injected the steroids into Rodriguez.

Another former teammate, Alex Rodriguez, recently said he used performance-enhancing drugs while with the Rangers.

"Alex is a great guy, he's the best player in baseball and he's going to be OK," Ivan Rodriguez said. "People don't know how hard he works."

Alex Rodriguez said the culture of the game was different when he used drugs to improve his performance.

Ivan Rodriguez begrudgingly agreed.

"It happened and everybody has to move forward," he said.

Looking back, no one can match some of the feats that Ivan Rodriguez has accomplished since his career began in 1991 with the Rangers.

He is the only player in baseball history with at least 13 Gold Gloves and a career .300 average or better.

Among position players, only Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson has more Gold Glove awards.

Rodriguez has caught 2,173 games, trailing only Carlton Fisk (2,226) and Bob Boone (2,225) in terms of longevity behind the plate.

"Absolutely, I'd like to break Mr. Fisk's record," he said. "And, another goal is 3,000 hits.

"But really, my love of the game of baseball is what motivates me to work out five days a week to stay ready."

Rodriguez, who has 2,605 career hits, would likely have to play a few more seasons to join the 3,000-hit club.

And, he'd have to play much better than he did last season.

Rodriguez hit .295 in 82 games last season for the Detroit Tigers, then finished with a .276 batting average after struggling at the plate with the New York Yankees.

The Tigers dealt Rodriguez, who sparked the turnaround when he signed with them in 2004 after helping Florida win the World Series, and didn't re-sign him because they didn't think he was a No. 1 catcher and knew he disagreed.

"I still think I'm an everyday catcher and that's one of the things that disappoints me when I hear people say I can't play every day or I'm a part-time player," Rodriguez said with piercing eyes as the Atlantic Ocean crashed on the beach and dusk led to orange, yellow and shades of gray to fill the sky. "People don't know how hard it was on me to go through a divorce from my wife of 15 years and how much that drained me physically and mentally.

"But now, I've been happily married for two years to a great woman, my kids are great, my ex-wife is good. I just want to play baseball because I know I have a lot left in me."

While Rodriguez can't hit like he did in the past, his play behind the plate is still strong. His caught-stealing percentage ranked third in the AL last season after ranking fifth and first the previous two years, among catchers with a minimum of 600 innings behind the plate, according to STATS.

Rodriguez is excited to play for Puerto Rico at the World Baseball Classic next month, but he's eager to join a Major League Baseball team.

"It's hard to be sitting here at home a few days after pitchers and catchers reported," Rodriguez said. "I hear Florida, Houston and the Mets are trying to do some things to sign me.

"I would love to be with any team right now, but I can get ready quick because of the way my body and mind are prepared to play right now."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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