Pudge joins club with 2,000th game

Pudge joins club with 2,000th game

DETROIT -- Under most conditions, this would be a night for Ivan Rodriguez to forget -- a tough loss with some difficult at-bats. But Tuesday was one of those reminders that simply getting behind the plate day in and day out is special.

With the start in Tuesday's series opener against the Indians, Rodriguez caught his 2,000th Major League game, joining a club that has welcomed just three other members. Carlton Fisk, Bob Boone and Gary Carter now have company.

The way Rodriguez is playing and feeling these days, they'll likely all be looking up in the record books before Pudge hangs up his catching gear for good.

"I work very hard and feel very good physically right now," Rodriguez said afterward. "To be honest with you, I've got a lot of baseball left in me and I've just got to continue to play hard."

Fisk and Boone were in their 40s when they caught their 2,000th games. Carter was 38 years old. Rodriguez is just 35. And as his manager and teammates will point out, he plays in the physical condition of someone younger.

"You start with genes," manager Jim Leyland said, "then you go to the fact that he takes such good care of himself. There's not an ounce of fat on him. He eats right and keeps himself in great shape. I can understand a shortstop, center fielder -- but a catcher, that's pretty amazing, really."

Rodriguez's work ethic doesn't go unnoticed.

"When the game's over and all the fans are leaving through the concourse, he goes back out and runs," said Mike Rabelo, who has the sometimes low-work job of being a backup catcher to Pudge.

Barring injury, Rodriguez will set another standard for catchers next week with his 12th career start in the All-Star Game. While Justin Verlander no-hit the Brewers June 12, Rodriguez recorded his 12,000th career putout, becoming the only catcher in Major League history to reach that mark.

So far, Rodriguez has avoided the physical breakdown of catching regularly despite being an everyday backstop in the Majors since he was 19 years old. With the season at its halfway point, he's on a pace to catch around 130 games this season, which would be his highest total in four years as a member of the Tigers.

It would also push him past Carter for third place on the all-time list. Carter caught 2,056 games in his Hall of Famer career, though he scaled back to part-time duty behind the plate after age 35.

Once Rodriguez hits that goal, he'll likely have a couple more years behind the plate before he approaches the record. Fisk caught 2,226 games in his career, one more than Boone, before retiring in 1993 at age 45.

The man currently known as Pudge is still more than 200 games behind Fisk, who also had the nickname in his time. But Rodriguez is a decade younger.

"He's 100 times ahead of me," said Rabelo, who has caught 20 games in his Major League career. "If I caught 1,000 games, I'd feel good."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.