Pool D MVP Rodriguez on job hunt
Catcher has been hot in Classic, but searching for Major League employer
SAN JUAN, P.R. -- Ivan Rodriguez may be willing to keep his options open in more ways than one as to where he plays this summer.
The 36-year-old veteran of 18 Major League seasons took instruction on how to play first base from Puerto Rican manager and longtime infield guru Jose Oquendo during some of the practices of the Puerto Rican squad in the first round of the World Baseball Classic in San Juan.
Rodriguez has yet to sign a contract to play Major League baseball in 2009. He has devoted his spring to playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. His hard work paid off in terms of the Classic, as the media covering Pool D elected him the Most Valuable Player of the San Juan round of the Classic. Rodriguez finished the first round hitting .545 with two home runs, five RBIs, and 13 total bases.
On Monday, Rodriguez spent most of his team's pregame practice taking grounders at first base. Carlos Delgado joined Rodriguez and offered him advice.
"We were talking about anticipating plays, getting the timing down of moving away from the base when a runner is on base and starting double plays," said Delgado on Wednesday, before Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands, 5-0, in the final game of Pool D play of the World Baseball Classic.
Delgado admitted that playing first base would increase the marketability and versatility of Rodriguez.
"It is not a foreign position for him -- he has played first base in the Majors," said Delgado, alluding to the 55 innings in seven games that Rodriguez played at first base for the Detroit Tigers in 2006. Rodriguez committed only one error and recorded 56 putouts as a first baseman.
Puerto Rican coach Jerry Morales, who was hitting the ground balls to Rodriguez at first base on Monday, said that Rodriguez looked good fielding the position.
"If he can catch the way he does behind the plate he can play first base," Morales said.
Rodriguez has won 13 Gold Glove Awards as catcher -- more than any catcher in history.
When Rodriguez was asked about his practice session with Oquendo at first base, he said: "It is not a big thing. I just like to practice different things. The important thing is to get a job."
On Wednesday, Rodriguez took ground balls in the foul area between the first-base foul line and the Puerto Rican dugout. Yadier Molina hit the ball at him while Oquendo stood behind Rodriguez, giving him pointers about positioning his feet, his torso and his glove, while fielding.
As for what his success for the Classic means so far in terms of helping him to land a job, Rodriguez said: "There are offers, but there is nothing concrete. I have to keep playing and preparing myself physically and waiting for an opportunity, so that when it comes, I am ready."
Rodriguez heads to Miami with the Puerto Rico team to play in Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic. Puerto Rico will face the United States at 8 p.m. ET in Game 2 of Round 2.
Will Gonzalez is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.