DETROIT (AP) - Ivan Rodriguez hit .500 in June and started Tuesday with a .377 average, easily the best in the major leagues. He was voted to the
All-Star game for the 11th time and is the man most responsible for the transformation of the Detroit Tigers from a record-setting loser to a team in
the middle of the pack in the AL Central.
"I'm very happy and pleased with the season," he said. "We're playing great baseball. We just have to keep playing."
The Detroit Tigers showed a lot of faith in Rodriguez when they gave him a $40 million, four-year contract in February.
The star catcher has been worth every penny.
"I played with Vladimir Guerrero and Sammy Sosa," teammate Rondell White said. "And I've seen Bernie Williams get as hot as anybody, but what Pudge is
doing is unbelievable."
Many thought the same of Rodriguez's decision to sign with the Tigers this offseason after being the MVP of the NL championship series and helping the
Florida Marlins win the World Series last season.
Detroit lost an AL-record 119 games last year — one short of the modern-day record set by the 1962 New York Mets — and hasn't had a winning record
But Rodriguez focused on the positive things about the once-proud franchise, which has produced numerous Hall of Famers and won four World Series in
nine appearances since 1901. Granted, the Tigers offered the 32-year-old catcher more money than any other team was prepared to. But Rodriguez's
performance thus far has justified the team's confidence.
During spring training, Lance Parrish, Detroit's bullpen coach and an eight-time All-Star catcher, said Rodriguez was arguably the best player ever to
play behind the plate. Rodriguez is doing what many thought an aging catcher couldn't. He's playing like a star in his prime, and he rarely misses a
He also has a chance to become the first catcher to win the AL batting crown. Since 1900, a catcher has been the NL batting champ three times, but
none since 1942, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The best batting average by a catcher who caught at least 100 games was .361 by Bill Dickey of
the New York Yankees in 1936, according to Elias.
Before Rodriguez, Colorado's Todd Helton was the last player to hit .500 in a month, four years ago. During Detroit's weekend series in Colorado,
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said Rodriguez's feat was more impressive. Besides his gaudy batting average, Rodriguez started the series in New York
with 57 RBIs and 10 home runs.