Pudge passes physical, officially an Astro

March 21, 2009 6:49:34 AM PDT
Ivan Rodriguez's $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Houston Astros was finalized Friday after the catcher passed his physical. [SPORTS BLOG: Get the latest news from the Eyewitness Sports team]

"We're very happy to have him here," general manager Ed Wade said. "Obviously it's a huge upgrade to our ballclub to have somebody with his ability and experience and we think it's another step in the direction we want to go to bring a World Series to Houston."

The 13-time Gold Glove winner hit .276 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 115 games last season with Detroit and the Yankees, who acquired him in July. He expects to make his spring debut for the Astros on Sunday, and he should be in good shape after playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

Houston needed a veteran catcher to replace Brad Ausmus, who became a free agent and signed with the Dodgers. Last year, the Astros used Ausmus, Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles behind the plate.

The 37-year-old Rodriguez will likely start in Houston, moving Quintero, who had been projected to start, into the backup role. Rodriguez didn't play as much as he wanted to last season.

He could earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses: $200,000 each for 350, 375, 400, 425 and 450 plate appearances; $150,000 apiece for 90 and 100 games; and $200,000 for 110 games.

"I still can play this game on an everyday basis," Rodriguez said "That's the reason that I came to the Astros, because it was the only team that offered me the everyday basis job."

Rodriguez said waiting to get a new team was difficult.

"I'm glad that it's over," he said. "Now it's official that I'm going to be with the Astros for this 2009 season, and I just look forward to having a great year and make this ballclub be in the playoffs. That's going to be my goal."

He will wear No. 14 during spring training and No. 12 for the season, the same number he wore in New York. His longtime No. 7 was retired by the Astros last year for Craig Biggio.

"I love No. 7, but I respect that No. 7 here is untouchable," he said. "Craig Biggio used this number for years, and I respect that. But No. 12, I like that number. But it doesn't matter to me the number. Right now I just look forward to play and use whatever number in the back and do my best in the field."

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