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Pudge relishes reaching milestone

Pudge relishes reaching milestone

BOSTON -- After a few days of trying, Ivan Rodriguez picked up his 2,500th career base hit in Wednesday night's Tigers win. But while he treasures it, it's not the milestone he's looking for.

Now that he has 2,500 hits, he can look ahead toward 3,000.

"It's something I'm thinking about," Rodriguez admitted Wednesday night. "It's 500 hits away. As long as I stay healthy, play the game and play the way that I play the game, nobody knows, but I've got a good shot. I've got a good shot at it."

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That, plus Carlton Fisk's Major League record for games caught, would be the cap to what already should be a Hall of Fame career.

In many areas, his rank among the game's greats is already secure. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen added to his accolades last weekend.

"I'm the biggest [Roberto] Clemente fan ever -- I named my son after him," Guillen said. "But Pudge Rodriguez is the best player ever out of Puerto Rico."

That's high praise for Rodriguez, who himself idolizes Clemente and the legacy he left behind.

Rodriguez stood at 2,499 hits since his three-hit game last Saturday. He was mired in an 0-for-15 slump until the eighth inning Wednesday, when he slapped a ground ball through the left side for a single.

With that, he became the 87th player in Major League history to reach 2,500 hits. His three-hit game on Thursday night gave him a fast start on his quest for 3,000.

Even before Wednesday's hit, Rodriguez owned the Major League record for hits by a full-time catcher. Second on that list is Ted Simmons at 2,472. Rodriguez also has 500 career doubles and needs 12 home runs for 300. This all while catching 2,067 games, third all time behind Bob Boone and Fisk, and throwing out better than 43 percent of would-be basestealers.

He added to that last mark on Wednesday, throwing out a pair of runners at second base to end Boston rallies and help the Tigers contain the mighty Red Sox offense en route to their first win of the season.

"That was the most important thing," Rodriguez said. "The 2,500th hit was awesome, but throwing those two guys out, both to end the inning and kill the rally, I like that. I love my defense. I love to keep my defense in the game every single day. That's what they pay me for."

Look for his career numbers to swell even more. Rodriguez has said at age 36, he wants to catch until he's 40, and he keeps himself in the physical shape to at least have a chance.

"The way Pudge Rodriguez takes care of himself, 2,500 hits is nothing," Guillen said. "These guys now, they can play forever."

Rodriguez hopes he can. For now, he's going to take some pride in what he just reached.

"I enjoy it a lot -- it's a good number," Rodriguez said. "That's a lot of hits. But again, there's a lot of baseball left for me. Twenty-five hundred is a remarkable mark, and I'm very happy for that. All that's left right now is to keep playing hard."

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

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