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Riggleman: "Pudge is our catcher"

Feb 18, 2011, 2:50 PM EDT

VIERA, Fla. — There may come a point this season when either Wilson Ramos or Jesus Flores takes over as the Washington Nationals’ starting catcher. But for now, that job still belongs to one of the greatest backstops ever to play the game.

Manager Jim Riggleman made it clear Friday morning Ivan Rodriguez will open the season as his club’s starter behind the plate.

“Pudge is our catcher,” Riggleman said. “We’re going to go out there, and Pudge is going to continue to lead our ballclub as a leader behind the plate, a good hitter and just a good baseball player. He’s got a lot of baseball left, so he’s our catcher. And whoever wins that second spot is going to get incorporated into the lineup more and more as we go along.”

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  1. yankish2 - Feb 18, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    I wouldn't expect Riggleman to say anything different about his starting catcher. It seems like he has a plan for the catcher position and that is what we can expect from a manager. I am glad to see increased playing time for his #2 as the season progresses to be part of the plan.It will be fun to see who Riggleman picks as his #2. I think it will be Ramos since Flores has hasn't played regularly in such a long time.

  2. Not Werth It - Feb 18, 2011 at 3:56 PM

    Are the Nats really going to break camp with all three of these catchers? With Norris waiting in the wings can't we afford to trade one of the young guys now instead of hoping Pudge turns into trade bait? I would hate to send either of those guys to AAA, especially Flores. Man, poor Flores.

  3. raymitten - Feb 18, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Flores should be used in Spring Training, and, if he makes it that far, traded. At some point we have to stop waiting for this guy.

  4. Theophilud - Feb 18, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    At this point last year, the vaguely formed plan was for Rodriguez to split time w/ Flores. When Flores turned out to be more injured than anyone had thought, it became six parts Rodriguez to one part Nieves. It's no wonder he wore out. But in the early part of the season he showed (A) he still knows how to hit; (B) he reinvented himself as a hitter, to be a contact guy instead of a power guy. If he can still be a contact guy at the bottom of the order, turning over the lineup, that's a big deal. So, if turns out to be three parts Rodriguez to two parts somebody else, Pudge may well be hitting .275-.280 into September.Now, if Flores is really healthy, Ramos should start the year at Syracuse learning some of the plate discipline he allegedly needs to develop. At the beginning of 2009, Flores was really raking the ball, looking like a legitimate option in the No. 5 spot. This year, the Nats don't need a No. 5 but it certainly would be good to have Flores's power in the lineup on a regular basis. If he looks like he did two years ago over the first 2-3 months of the season, Boston or someone similarly situated (Texas?) will give good value for him.

  5. Sec 3, My Sofa - Feb 18, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    They don't need to trade any of them. Pudge's contract is up after this year, Norris is evidently at least a year or two away *IF* all goes well, and there is no guarantee anybody stays healthy. Trade because you can fill a need, not because you have a catcher burning a hole in your pocket (so to speak, tho that's an interesting image…).

  6. Steve M. - Feb 18, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    Ray, I disagree about trading Flores, the Nats need 2 catchers and Pudge will be traded by July 31st to a Playoff team that will want him as a backup, DH, etc.

  7. John C. - Feb 18, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    I'm with Steve M. Don't trade the young guys, rotate one (probably Ramos) with Pudge in DC while Flores proves he is healthy and effective in AAA Syracuse with Norris continuing his development at AA Harrisburg.

  8. sm13 - Feb 18, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    I for one feel lucky to be able to watch a hall of fame catcher for one more year in DC. Pudge comes to play 100% every single day. He is the ultimate professional and still an excellent catcher and a good cog in the Nats lineup. Flores, Ramos, and Norris all can learn a lot from Pudge – the more time they spend with him the better

  9. JaneB - Feb 18, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    I love that we have Pudge, but I'm with John and Steve: We keep Flores and Ramos and hug Pudge goodbye in July when he heads off to help another team make the playoffs. Flores was looking so good before his injury; I hope he is really back to his healthy former self, and back on track to make other teams unhappy to see him at the plate. In other news, the video of Livo pitching (on Mar;s "other" blog) made him look not as svelte as I was hoping. Hmmmm….

  10. Anonymous - Feb 18, 2011 at 9:54 PM

    Pudge was awful last year and he'll be awful this year, can't wait to have a catcher who can contribute something offensively.

  11. Another_Sam - Feb 18, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    I too think that Flores is the man for the long haul here.

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