Pudge says being a Yankee a 'dream'
Bombers' new catcher thrilled to make debut in pinstripes
NEW YORK -- Even before his first news conference as a Yankee, Ivan Rodriguez had already been wearing his No. 12 pregame jersey and Yankees cap. He arrived in New York at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday but went to the clubhouse first, chatting with his new teammates and coaches.
"I love to play in New York," said Rodriguez, who'll catch Andy Pettitte during Thursday's series opener against the Angels. "I love it. This is a dream for me to be here."
The Yankees acquired the 14-time All-Star catcher from the Tigers on Wednesday in exchange for right-handed reliever Kyle Farnsworth. Rodriguez, also a 13-time Gold Glove winner, was batting .295 with five home runs and 32 RBIs in 82 games with Detroit. A career .302 hitter, the 36-year-old is in his 18th Major League season.
Before the news conference, Pudge met with pitching coach Dave Eiland, first-base coach and former catcher Tony Pena, and Jose Molina, who became the regular catcher after Jorge Posada's injured right shoulder limited him and, ultimately, resulted in season-ending surgery on Wednesday.
"This is a learning process right now," Rodriguez said. "I'm a very simple catcher behind the plate. I just want the pitchers to feel good when I'm behind the plate."
Rodriguez waived a no-trade clause to approve the deal after he was told by the Tigers that they planned to use Brandon Inge more. Even so, Rodriguez was surprised by the deal, for two reasons:
Detroit isn't out of it in the American League Central, sitting six games behind the White Sox entering Thursday's action. In addition, Molina has one of the best arms in the game, and he leads the Majors with a 46.3 caught-stealing percentage.
"It's still hard to believe I'm talking to you guys here in Yankee Stadium with a Yankee uniform," Rodriguez said. "But I'm happy, and I'll do my best."
And he has Molina's blessing.
"How many All-Stars does he have? How many Gold Gloves does he have?" said Molina, who has known Rodriguez for years. "People think because he's 36 he's losing it. I don't think so. I think he still has game. He still has his arm, his glove. We'll have to see if it's going to be better or worse, hopefully, for good. I don't want to lose."
Rodriguez will plenty of support on Thursday, as his parents, wife and three children will be attendance. He'll also have the backing of manager Joe Girardi.
"He understands what it's like, in a sense, to be a Yankee," Girardi said. "He's excited about being a Yankee and what lies before us and the challenges. He's caught two World Series and was a champion in one of them. He's excited for that opportunity."
Willie Bans is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.