Pudge, Astros make deal official
Rodriguez expects to be in uniform vs. Nationals on Sunday
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- For the majority of his career, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez has worn uniform No. 7.
But with the Houston Astros?
"No chance," he said with a laugh. "I know that number is untouchable."
No. 7, of course, belongs to Houston icon Craig Biggio, whose own retirement in 2007 put his uniform number out of circulation for good. Rodriguez, who passed the last of his series of physicals on Friday and is now officially an Astro, will wear No. 12 as he takes over the top spot behind the plate as the club's new frontline catcher.
Rodriguez signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, with the opportunity to make another $1.5 in incentives. He has a wedding to attend on Saturday, but expects to be in uniform for Sunday's game when the Astros host the Nationals.
"It wasn't an easy offseason for me," said Rodriguez. "I'm glad that I'm back in a Major League organization. The Astros have been an organization where they have a lot of good players.
"I played pretty much all my career in Texas with the Rangers, and now coming back to Texas and playing with the Astros is going to be good for me, for the team. I just look forward to coming back on Sunday and meeting the pitchers, talking to the pitchers and making the pitchers comfortable."
Rodriguez's arrival pushes Humberto Quintero to the backup role and likely means J.R. Towles will start the season at Triple-A Round Rock. Rule 5 draftee Lou Palmisano also has little or no chance to make the club.
The 2009 season will mark Rodriguez's 19th in the Major Leagues. He played with the Rangers from 1991-2002 before moving to the World Series champion Marlins in 2003. He played the next 4 1/2 years with Detroit before being dealt to the Yankees at the Trade Deadline last year.
"We're happy to have him here," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "Obviously, it's a huge upgrade for our ballclub, to be able to have somebody with his ability and experience. It's another step in the direction we want to go, to win a World Series in Houston."
Rodriguez, who hit .295 for the Tigers in '08 but only .219 for the Yankees, was reportedly being courted by at least one other team this month. But the Astros emerged as the favorite when playing time became the driving factor in the negotiations.
"It was the only team that offered me [an] everyday-basis job," Rodriguez said. "That's what I was looking for -- to play every day and help the team to be in the playoffs. The reason I said I wanted some playing time is because physically and mentally, I feel I still can play on an everyday basis."
Going through a full offseason and not signing with a team was admittedly hard for the catcher, whose value seemingly skyrocketed after he logged 10 hits in 20 at-bats for Team Puerto Rico during the World Baseball Classic.
"It was very tough for myself and my family," he said. "But at the same time, I was keeping myself in good faith, keeping myself in good shape, working out and trying to do the things that I've got to do to keep myself in good shape.
"Now, I'm glad it's over. Now that it's official, I'm going be with Astros for the 2009 season and I look forward to having a great year and helping the ballclub get to the playoffs. That's my goal, and that's Mr. [manager Cecil] Cooper's goal, too, to bring the Houston Astros to playoffs. We've got to work hard, stay positive, keep everybody together as a team and play the game hard."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.