Astros closing in on deal with 'Pudge'

March 17, 2009 9:32:43 AM PDT
The Houston Astros and catcher Ivan Rodriguez are closing in on a $1.5 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press on Monday. The deal would contain $1.5 million in performance bonuses based on games and plate appearances, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced by the team.

"There isn't anything certain yet. Right now the only team I have is Puerto Rico," said Rodriguez in Spanish in Miami before meeting Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. "There's interest, but I haven't received a call yet. Let's wait and see what happens in the coming hours or days."

Houston needed a veteran catcher to replace Brad Ausmus, who became a free agent and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros have several young catchers in camp who need time to develop. Houston used Ausmus, J.R. Towles and Humberto Quintero at the position last season.

It appeared earlier that Quintero would be the starter this season, but he'll likely move to a backup role.

Rodriguez's talks with Houston were first reported by "It's very important for me (to be a starter) because I feel good enough to play every day," Rodriguez said. "I feel very good, ready to play a whole season."

He added that his splay with Puerto Rico probably boosted his bid to find a regular-season team.

"It helps a lot for some players like myself, who still don't have a job. I think this Classic has been a very important factor."

Florida also had inquired. Rodriguez helped the Marlins win the 2003 World Series.

"There was some interest and we'll leave it at that," Marlins vice president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "Obviously, we have a lot of affection for Pudge and what he did in '03. There was interest there, and he made another choice, and that's the way it goes. Hopefully, it works out for him."

The 37-year-old, a 13-time Gold Glove winner, began last season in Detroit, was traded to the Yankees in July and hit .276 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 115 games.

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