Friday, December 11, 2009

Pudge Rodriguez Introductory Press Conference

Originally expected to begin at 1PM, today's Introductory Press Conference with Pudge Rodriguez as a member of Our Washington Nationals was moved back to 2PM, then 2:30PM. Eventually, it all began when a very chiseled and athletic looking Ivan Rodriguez walked into the media room at Nationals Park at 2:45PM. A 20 minute Q & A Session ensued that will be remembered for one specific line stated by Our New Number 7:

"I am ready to play every day."

Here is the complete transcript of today's Pudge Rodriguez Introductory Press Conference:

John Dever (Senior Director of Communications): “We would like to thank everyone for being here and bearing with us getting started a little later than we actually anticipated. And we would like to welcome our viewers and fans on MASN—The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. Thanks for coming for what is another benchmark moment for The Nationals Franchise. The Nationals have signed catcher Ivan Rodriguez to a two-year contract. Pudge as he is perhaps more commonly known, is always included on any shortlist of the game’s top two-way catchers. And that is evidenced by his 13 Gold Gloves and his Seven Silver Slugger Awards. At this point, I would like to introduce our two dignitaries for the afternoon. Nationals Senior Vice-President & General Manager Mike Rizzo and 14-time All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez. We are going to get things started. They are both going to open up with statements. Upon completion of those statements, we will open up the floor for questions.”

Mike Rizzo: “Welcome to Nationals Park. It is my pleasure to be here today—a very exciting day for The Washington Nationals Family. It is a day we get to introduce certainly the greatest catcher in our generation, and quite possibly the greatest catcher in the history of baseball who joins us this year. The Lerner Family has been gracious enough to allow us to sign Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez to be a member of The Washington Nationals Family. He brings with him a laundry list of accolades and career records. We feel this is a player who can take us into the next level of competition. He’s the beginning of what we would call, not the rebuilding process like we saw, but the building process. He is a big piece of what we are doing currently in 2010 and in the future. And his helpfulness and impact on the organization goes far beyond the playing field and all the statistics—into the clubhouse, into the community, and into the Washington, D.C. area. So, without further ado, I would like to introduce the newest member of The Washington Nationals Family—Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez.”

(The donning of the customary jersey and cap takes place)

Mike: “It looks good on you!”

Pudge: “Thank You.”

Pudge: “Good afternoon. It is an honor for me to be here today. I want to say thanks to The Washington Nationals organization to give me the opportunity to be with The Nationals over the next two seasons. And my goal is to bring my experience into the ball club as a baseball player and be ready to play in the field. I am a player that loves to win. I love to play hard in the field. And I look forward to the same thing from my teammates when we play. I played against them this year when I played for The Astros and there are a lot of good things we said about this ball club. It’s a team that hits very well and plays in the field 100% all the time. Basically, that is what I like to see. I love to play the game hard, 100%. And I am looking forward to the same thing for the organization and for the team. Again, I appreciate it. I am very happy, excited, and I can’t wait for Spring Training to be a part of the team. So, thank you.”

Question: You had a chance to go elsewhere to play every day. What was it about The Nationals that attracted you so much?

Pudge: “The Nationals were a team that came to us to play pretty much on an every day basis. A two-year contract and that was what I was looking forward to—to be able to play two more seasons. I feel like I can play this game for two or three more years and basically, they (The Nationals) came out and showed an interest in me to come to the team and that was it. It’s a great team. I know what I saw when I play against them and that is why I decided to come to The Nationals.”

Question: This is a pretty young pitching staff. John Lannan certainly the ace at this point. But there is another guy on the way in Stephen Strasburg. How much of an impact do you think you will have on these guys as they are learning their craft at the Major League level?

Pudge: “Basically, communication is going to be pretty important for me with the pitching staff. I do that all the time—every year. Basically, spring training is for that to work with the pitchers, see them, because I have never caught them. At the same time, communication is very important. In Spring Training we are going to sit down. First all, I am going to see what they like to do? How they like to pitch? And then we go from there. I am not a difficult catcher. I try to make things very simple for the pitchers. I go with what they feel comfortable with and we go from there.”

Question: The Nationals already have a young catcher in Jesus Flores. Are you looking forward to working with him?

Pudge: “Absolutely, we are all teammates. And the goal is winning games. He is a talented player that hits very well as a catcher. I am sure we are going to talk a lot. He is a guy that I talked to before. He came to me and said hello when we played. He is a very nice guy. I look forward to talking to him about whatever he needs. I am here for that, but the most important thing is that we are here to win. We are here for one goal, to win and have a good season. And be in the playoffs in October.”

Question: This is not the first time in your career you have signed with a team that was coming out of a last place season—like in Detroit. Are there any similarities between this team and what that team had and what stands out about this that makes you want to come here?

Pudge: “ When I signed in Detroit in 2004, I saw this (situation as) better than 2004 in Detroit. Every year I was there we had some more improvement in the team. But in coming here, my goal is just to put my (effort) into the team, to help my teammates and try to support the whole team to win ball games. I know they have very talented players already on our team and they know what they have to do. My job is just to come in and help with my experiences with the team, with the ball club, especially the pitchers. And try to win games. Try to create a very solid team together in the field and basically, that is our goal, to take one game at a time. Baseball is not an easy sport to play. You have to play hard every day. You have to play 27 hard outs and if you do that every day you are going to win a lot of games. Basically, that is my philosophy and how I play the game. And that is what I am planning to bring into this ball club and to tell my teammates to play the game hard every day.”

Question: What expectations do you have about how much you will play?

Pudge: “I am ready to play every day. We discussed that. I am a player that can still play every day and I will play every day. Basically, I just need to do the best for the club. I know it is hard for me to play 162 games—that is impossible for a catcher. But I am healthy and feeling great—basically. I will be playing and I will be in the field playing.”

Question: How big of a goal is it for you to try to reach 3000 hits?

Pudge: “That is a goal. I am not too far from there—only 289 hits left for that. That is one of my goals, but the most important thing to me is I have a good season for The Nationals and have a great year myself and help the team win ball games. And at the end, just have a good season (for Washington) and go home with a good season for myself.”

Question: Ivan, when you first signed two days ago, the team was telling the media that between 70 to 80 games a year was probably your peak performance. Do you agree with that? What is your sense, at this age, how often you should be playing?

Pudge: “Again, I am ready to play. I look forward to going to spring training and do my job and play the game. I am a guy that takes care of himself very well—keeping myself in good shape. And I am going to be in spring training in February ready to go. Those decisions are not in my control, but I can control going to spring training in good shape and be ready, mentally and physically, to play on an every day basis.”

Question in Spanish

Question: Mike you had talked about how this move was really a priority for you during this off-season. Not to take away from the other two, could you talk about what this upgrade means to the position in terms of defense up the middle and offensively?

Mike: “Well, going into the off-season, we had a checklist of things we wanted to accomplish. And to certainly address the catching situation was certainly a priority for us. With the injury and surgery to Jesus Flores, we thought we needed a person who could be a significant contributor to the ball club—particularly in 2010—but in 2010 and beyond. When we made our checklist and made our evaluations, it was very evident and very quickly (determined) in the process, when we gathered all our evaluators together in one place that we were no longer looking for a catcher to fill that role. We were looking for Ivan Rodriguez to fill that role. It was so important to get a player of his caliber—not only his character, his leadership ability, his track record and the aura he brings to a clubhouse—but also for the fact that he threw out 38% of would-be base stealers—which was 4th in all of baseball last year. He has a potent bat and we think there is a lot left in the tank with this particular player. So, it (catching) was something we thought needed addressing. We had specific parameters in regard to who we wanted to fill that role. And at the end of the day, The Lerners made it possible for us to go out and sign a terrific player like Ivan Rodriguez.”

Question: Mike, right now, what is Jesus Flores’ health status?

Mike: “Jesus Flores is still rehabbing the shoulder surgery. It has been passed along to me in a meeting as early as yesterday that he should be full go, ready to go, by the beginning of spring training. And we will go to spring training with that in mind. In the past, specifically with arm surgeries and labrum surgeries—we go into it cautiously optimistic.”

With that final answer the formal press conference introducing Pudge Rodriguez to Our Washington Nationals concluded. The assembled media then met with both Rodriguez and Rizzo on the side—individually—for additional questions. Those transcripts will be posted later this evening.

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