Pudge grateful for memories of Detroit
Former Tigers catcher makes brief return to former home park
DETROIT -- It will last only one game, but Ivan Rodriguez is taking full advantage of his return to the place he played for 4 1/2 seasons. That includes sleeping in his own bed at his house for two nights.
Rodriguez returned to Detroit and Comerica Park on Monday for the Yankees' makeup game with the Tigers.
"It's different," Rodriguez said as he sat in the visitors' dugout at Comerica Park for the first time in at least five seasons. "It's always nice to come back and see the guys."
The perennial All-Star catcher was traded from Detroit to New York on July 30 for right-handed reliever Kyle Farnsworth.
Rodriguez talked about the mixed emotions of coming back to the place where he was the symbol of the Tigers' rise from one of the worst teams in baseball to World Series participants in 2006.
Rodriguez signed with Detroit as a free agent after the 2003 season, one that saw the Tigers come close to breaking the modern Major League record for most losses in a season.
One of Rodriguez's favorite memories concerns Detroit's starter on Monday, Justin Verlander. Rodriguez caught Verlander's no-hitter last season.
"I just remember the fly ball to right field [for the last out]," said Rodriguez. "It was very exciting. I've caught a few no-hitters; I know how he felt."
There were also emotions among the Tigers fans gathering behind the visitors' dugout before Monday's game. A few minutes after he completed his interview with the media, Rodriguez stepped onto the field to cheers from the small group of fans.
Rodriguez is proud of the way fans in Detroit reacted to him.
"You have to put on a big show," Rodriguez said. "The fans expect that. They pay a lot of money."
But the pregame praise was nothing compared to the reception Rodriguez got when he strolled to the plate for his first at-bat on Monday. The sellout crowd of 44,336 gave Rodriguez a standing ovation. He raised his hand and waved his fist to acknowledge the gesture before he stepped in against Verlander, leading off the second inning.
"It was special -- that was nice," Rodriguez said after the game. "I appreciate that very much. That means very much, coming from the fans. It means the four years I was here, I did a good job."
Rodriguez was 2-for-5 with two runs scored.
The catcher has endured a bit of a slow start in New York.
Since the trade, he was hitting .203 with two home runs and two RBIs in 21 games entering Monday. But Yankees manager Joe Girardi defended the 36-year-old catcher.
"I think he's doing pretty good," Girardi said. "It's always tough learning a [pitching] staff. He's worked very hard."
Rodriguez likes being a member of the Yankees, even though the team hasn't performed to its usual standards. The veteran catcher will be a free agent this offseason, but he said he's focused only on each day's game.
Wherever he is, Rodriguez is convinced he will be a starting catcher.
"I know myself -- I'm healthy," Rodriguez said. "In general, I'm feeling great. Of course I can play every day."
Rodriguez had been in a rotation with Brandon Inge when he left the Tigers.
Paul Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.