Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcome Back, Pudge!

I tweeted about this last night, but didn't have time to do a full-blown post until now. I actually saw the news on a screen crawl on the TV at the place where I was having a quick dinner, and I couldn't believe what I was reading: Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is back with the Rangers!

The 13-time Gold Glove catcher, who grew up in the Rangers system and starred with the team from 1991-2002, was acquired from the Houston Astros for a minor-league pitcher and the proverbial "player to be named later." In the short run, having Pudge here fills a void on the roster with Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the disabled list, but in the long run, his acquisition marks not only the return of a fan favorite but also a seasoned veteran who was with the Rangers in their previous trips to the playoffs. With this young team making a serious run in that direction this season, his presence in the clubhouse will be as valuable as it will be on the field.

While Taylor Teagarden is now the starting catcher and will receive the bulk of playing time, Pudge is expected to catch two or three times a week; I think he realizes at this point in his career that he can be happy in a backup role as long as the team is winning. (Oddly enough, Teagarden, who grew up in Carrollton, considered Rodriguez his idol when growing up, and now has the only-in-your-dreams opportunity of having said idol be his backup.)

If memory serves, I was in Arlington covering a game for KNTU when Pudge got called up, and he made his first start a few nights later. Needless to say, I enjoyed a lot of games with him on the mound, either on TV or in the stands. Had I been a blogger just a few months earlier, I'm sure I would have posted some impassioned pleas for the Rangers not to let Pudge leave via free agency as he did in late '02. And now it's great to see him back.

So welcome back, Pudge! Here's hoping you can retire in a Ranger uniform.

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