When the Washington Nationals' everyday catcher, Wilson Ramos, went down with a torn ACL, the fans cried out online and on talk shows, "Bring back Pudge!"
Instead, the Nationals elevated Sandy Leon from Double-A Harrisburg. He suffered a high ankle sprain in a collision at home plate in his first game, necessitating a trip to the 60-day disabled list.
The fans again cried out for Ivan Rodriguez, but Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo added minor league veteran Carlos Maldonado to the 25-man roster to back up Jesus Flores. Maldonado, who got into four games with the 2010 Nats, is a good catch-and-throw guy, but at age 33, he has only 54 big league at-bats. His receiving skills keep him employed.
The other night Flores got hit by a pitch from Pirates reliever Evan Meek and thankfully wasn't injured. But what if he had been hurt? Would they have called Pudge then?
Look, the Nationals loved Pudge, but they feel they have enough organizational depth behind the plate now to cover the position while Ramos and Leon are recuperating. Had Flores been hurt Wednesday, the call would have gone out to either Jhonatan Solano or David Freitas.
Solano got a long look at big league spring training this year and impressed everyone. He began the year as the starting catcher for Syracuse but was hurt after just nine games. He has been rehabbing at extended spring training in Viera, Fla., and should be ready in about a week. He's not a big guy but is a gap-type hitter with strong defensive skills.
That the Nats wouldn't hesitate to bring Freitas up from Single-A Potomac if necessary speaks volumes about how high of a ceiling they think he has. Freitas may be the best player on the Potomac roster and has hit at or near .300 at every stop in the minor leagues. Freitas is big -- 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds -- and looks like he will develop power at the plate.
The Nats still have Pudge's phone number handy but feel that -- as in the case of Livan Hernandez -- they have outgrown him. It was clear last season that Rodriguez's offensive skills had diminished. When no one called for his services over the winter -- not even offering him a minor league contract -- he could see his dream of 3,000 hits slipping away. When he announced his retirement in a press conference at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, in April, he reflected on a 21-year career that surely will lead him to Cooperstown. Those who know him best believe that if the offer to participate in a pennant race -- albeit as a reserve -- came up, he wouldn't be able to resist coming back.
Pudge Rodriguez made a positive impact on the Nationals in 2010-11, but a curtain call doesn't seem to be in their plans.
Examiner columnist Phil Wood co-hosts the "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" and is a regular contributor to "Nats Xtra" on MASN. Contact him at email@example.com.