Pudge showing Marlins he could fit in
Veteran catcher, playing well in Classic, could stay in Miami
MIAMI -- As Puerto Rico was playing Team USA on Saturday night, Ivan Rodriguez saw a familiar face sitting near the dugout -- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
The two basically exchanged greetings.
"We just said hello. I was focused on the game," Rodriguez said on Sunday afternoon.
If contract talks continue to progress, there is a chance Rodriguez could once again be working for Loria.
The Marlins are actively pursuing the 37-year-old free-agent catcher.
For now, Rodriguez is playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, and that is his primary focus.
The Marlins, Astros, Twins, Giants and Mets have been linked to Rodriguez, who is helping himself by his performance in the Classic. In four games, the veteran is 9-for-15 (.625) with two homers and six RBIs.
Rodriguez had two hits in Puerto Rico's 11-1 victory over Team USA on Saturday night at Dolphin Stadium. Puerto Rico next plays Venezuela on Monday night.
Money and playing time are matters that have to be worked out if Rodriguez is to sign with Florida.
"We have to talk about that. You have to do something that's fair for the team and fair for me, too," Rodriguez said. "I have it in my mind to try to play, play a lot, whether it's catching or another position. The important thing is, I'm ready physically and mentally."
The Marlins are set to go with John Baker behind the plate. And Rodriguez has said he is open to playing other positions, like first base or third base. He took some ground balls at third base during Puerto Rico's workouts on Sunday.
But Florida clearly is looking for catching depth. However the playing time would be split if Rodriguez signs would largely depend on performance. Loria said he loves Baker -- calling him "a pleasant surprise last year" -- but would also like to bring in a potential Hall of Famer.
"It's something we're thinking about," Loria said. "There are a lot of considerations when you add players, and we'll be thinking about that. Everybody knows my fondness for Pudge, but there are a lot of variables there to consider."
An 18-year veteran, Rodriguez won his only World Series title while he was with the Marlins in 2003. He has a house in South Florida, and he would welcome a return.
"Absolutely, it would be nice. It would nice to be here, and be with my family," Rodriguez said. "To come back to here to Florida after 2003, I think it would be good for the team and good for the fans. I think the fans would look forward to that. There have been a lot of rumors, and the fans are excited about that. Let's see what happens.
"It could happen. You never know. It's just a matter of some communication with the organization and my agent [Scott Boras]."
Rodriguez has 2,605 career hits, and reaching 3,000 is a goal of his. He prides himself on his conditioning, and he plans on playing a few more seasons.
"I am thinking about that. I'm not too far away from that," he said of 3,000 hits. "Physically and mentally, I'm good. That's my main thing. I'm in excellent condition now. I still have years left in baseball, and good things are going to happen."
The Marlins are looking for an experienced catcher to help mold a young pitching staff.
"I think I can offer a lot of things, to be honest with you," he said in working with the staff. "In 2003, it was the same thing. I worked with them. I talked with them. We got along very well. You could see all those guys, their winning went up and their ERA went down. Those are the things I am capable of helping them do. Calling good games. Make the pitcher feel comfortable. Just use my experience behind the plate."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.