Pudge Rodriguez Leads a Trio of Hot-Hitting Puerto Rican Catchers in the MLB
No more cliches like in spring training. No more "how the grass smells," "how the sun shines brightly over the diamond." No more now that every team has an equal share of first place.
One month into the season there are teams living up to their preseason expectations. The Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees they truly appear as the teams we knew from last year and are each looking to repeat their way into the Fall Classic.
There are others that are good, surprising teams—such as the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and the Washington Nationals—as in every season there is a Cinderella team that's not easy to beat.
Through the first month of the season, though, it was not the best time to write about our Puerto Rican players.
Keeping this column positive, the Puerto Rican beat was to be found in the senior circuit.
Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez looks so far like the leading candidate for National League Comeback Player of the Year.
The seven-time Silver Slugger, nowadays fueled to reach the legendary 3,000-hit club, is batting .400 with seven doubles and 10 RBI in 19 games. By last Tuesday, he had hit safely in 11 of 14 starts dating to April 12.
The 14-time All-Star last month surpassed Roberto Alomar into second place among Puerto Ricans in career hits in the majors, and only Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente lies ahead.
With 2,737 hits heading into Tuesday's action, Rodriguez is only 263 hits away from both marks, as Clemente retired with 3,000 hits on the nose. At the pace he's currently going, though, Pudge might have to start and play regularly for three more years to reach his goal.
From the defensive side, Nationals Manager Jim Riggleman has been on the record praising Rodriguez as the architect behind the plate of his team's starting pitching success so far into the young season.
Riggleman, in a visit to South Florida, also commend on good start of rookie right-hander Luis Atilano, who is a native of Santurce, Puerto Rico.
Heading into Tuesday's action, the 25-year-old hurler is 2-0 with only three runs and 11 hits allowed in 12 innings pitched over two games started.
Right behind Rodriguez, the second best batting as a catcher in the National League is Bengie Molina.
Before arriving into Miami against the Marlins, Molina is red-hot with a batting average over .380 through the last week, and at present he is among the top five best hitters in the National League.
Giants skipper Bruce Bochy is such a believer in the 35-year-old veteran that he has returned him as his cleanup batter behind National League hitting leader Pablo Sandoval.
Bochy most recently also acclaimed fellow Puerto Rican left-handed Jonathan Sanchez.
Before his Tuesday start against the Marlins, Sanchez has gone 2-1 with 1.85 ERA, and opposing batters are only hitting against him for a National League-leading .167 average.
The 27-year-old is also ranked among the top of several categories among National League pitchers in strikeouts, ERA, and baserunners allowed.
The American League's best offensive Puerto Rican has been Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.
Through most of April he was getting hot with his bat before succumbing to some bad luck. On Monday he suffered a mild calf strain, and last week he missed two starts due to a right knee contusion after being hit by a pitch in a game against the Orioles.
The 38-year-old veteran at the moment is considered day-to-day.
Manager Joe Girardi has said Posada may be available to catch again by this Friday against the Boston Red Sox.
Let's hope the month of May gets better for the Puerto Rican brass in the Major Leagues.
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