Rodriguez remains Nationals starting catcher

VIERA, Fla. (AP) - At 39, Ivan Rodriguez remains a starting major league catcher.

The 14-time All-Star started 102 games for the Nationals last year, and manager Jim Riggleman said Friday that Pudge is still No. 1. That leaves Jesus Flores and Wilson Ramos to compete for time as a backup.

"He's got a lot of baseball left," Riggleman said. "Whoever wins that second spot is going to be incorporated into the lineup more and more as we go along. Whether it's Ramos, and or Flores, they're very talented guys."

Ramos, acquired from Minnesota in the Matt Capps trade last July, hit .269 (14-for-52) with one home run in 15 games for Washington last season. He is seen as more of a defensive standout with some offensive potential.

Flores appeared to be the Nationals catcher of the future just three seasons ago. However, he has been battling shoulder injuries for much of the past two seasons and missed all of 2010 following surgery to repair a torn labrum.

"We're not going to let them die on the vine. They've got to get playing time," Riggleman said. "Whichever guy is there, if not both of them, they're going to get playing time and stay sharp. And as the year goes on, they'll probably get a little more playing time."

The 26-year-old Flores played winter ball, starting seven consecutive games at one point, and said it helped him get his confidence back,

"I have to (stop) thinking about all those injuries and setbacks," he said. "It's in the past. Right now, if I'm healthy, I'm just going to keep working on the exercises I have to do to keep my shoulder in shape."

Riggleman doesn't have a favorite in the competition between Ramos and Flores.

"They both did well in winter ball," he said. "They're both healthy, both strong. Let them play here this spring and see how it goes."

Rodriguez, a 13-time Gold Glove winner, will tutor his backup. He's looking forward to the mentoring role.

"We get along well. They respect me a lot. I respect them very much," he said. "I'm going to talk to them a lot in spring training because I'm the kind of player that wants other people to do great."

NOTES: Riggleman said he would be happy if Mike Morse, Rick Ankiel or Roger Bernadina play well enough in spring training to claim the starting left field job. But he also is not opposed to platooning.


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