Throughout much of his career, Rodriguez has prided himself on being an every-day guy, topping 140 games played five times. Time is supposed to slow people down, especially those who put on equipment and squat for hours for a living. While Rodriguez has seen his games-played totals diminish somewhat from his iron-man years in the Texas heat with the Rangers, his mentality and preparation haven't changed a bit.
"In my years in Texas, I averaged 130-145 games a year," Rodriguez said. "That's part of my career, being very durable, my work ethic and preparing myself in the offseason to play every day. I'm still doing it. I still feel I have a lot of years left in my game. As long as I take care of myself and work hard and prepare myself in the offseason, I'm going to be fine."
The Astros need him to be fine, as he holds the keys to their success in a number of ways. First and foremost is his ability to handle the pitching staff. He was locked in with Mike Hampton on Wednesday night, as the veteran battery were in sync all night to the tune of six shutout innings. Considering Rodriguez didn't sign with the Astros until March 20, it's understandable that there's some on-the-fly learning going on.
"We're feeling really good," Rodriguez said. "Mike Hampton's outing [Wednesday] night was excellent. As long as we work together as the year goes on, we're going to feel much better. I'm very pleased with them."
The second contribution Rodriguez can make, of course, is with the bat. The career .301 hitter with 296 home runs provides some depth the bottom third of the Astros lineup, which began showing some signs of life in Wednesday night's 4-1 victory over the Pirates. Rodriguez went 0-for-4 and is hitting .185 in the early going, but manager Cecil Cooper saw something that made him want to put Rodriguez out there again to see if he might be able to get his backstop on a roll.
"I thought Pudge swung the bat pretty well [Wednesday] night," Cooper said. "He's not a youngster, but he feels pretty good. We're going to try and get that swing going for him a little bit. He'll be OK. It won't happen many days -- when he gets the [start] after a night game."
You won't hear Rodriguez complain. While he knows he can't catch every single game, and that when the dog days of summer arrive, a day off will be welcomed, he's never going to be the one to request the rest.
"I'm not a player to go to a manager and say I need a day off," Rodriguez said. "It's got to come from him. You're never going to see me going into Coop's office saying I need a day off, because I'm ready every day. That's how I prepare myself.
"Of course, as a catcher, it's impossible to play all the games. But I love this game and I like to participate. I like to win for the team. That's why I'm ready every day."