NEW YORK Ivan Rodriguez was the steady hand for the Florida Marlins when they won the 2003 World Series. A year later, he was the spark that helped turn around the Detroit franchise when nobody wanted to be a Tiger.
The New York Yankees hope he can be a little of both during their push for the playoffs.
The Yankees acquired the 14-time All-Star from the Tigers on Wednesday for hard-throwing reliever Kyle Farnsworth, a trade that filled glaring holes for both contenders.
"Honestly, I was shocked by this, but that's baseball," Rodriguez said. "Now, I'm just looking forward to playing for the Yankees and maybe I will play against Detroit again in the playoffs."
In the option year of a $50 million deal he signed with the Tigers in February 2004, Rodriguez will try to fill the void in the Yankees' lineup created by catcher Jorge Posada's shoulder injury. Posada had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder Wednesday and is out for the season.
The 36-year-old Rodriguez, who has 13 Gold Glove awards, was hitting .295 with five homers in 82 games this season.
Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente and Rodriguez are the only three players in baseball history with at least 12 Gold Gloves and a career .300 average or better. Rodriguez has caught 2,142 games, trailing only Carlton Fisk (2,226) and Bob Boone (2,225) in terms of longevity behind the plate. "He's still an everyday guy," Yankees manager Brian Cashman said. "He's an upgrade in spite of everything we've got."
Rodriguez has said he wants to play next season and beyond, but for now is focusing solely on helping the Yankees catch Tampa Bay and Boston in the AL East.
"It's going to be very exciting," he said. "They are in the race and I'm ready to do my job."
Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said the team didn't want to trade Rodriguez, but had bigger needs in the bullpen. The two teams began discussing the deal early Wednesday and had it wrapped up about six hours later, just as the Yankees were finishing off a 13-3 win over the Orioles. The Yankees expect Rodriguez to join the team on Thursday, when they start a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
"Pudge has done an outstanding job for us," Dombrowski told reporters before Detroit played the Cleveland Indians. "I'm sure he was very surprised by this, but for him this is a good situation. He's going to New York City, and they are in contention."
Scott Boras, Rodriguez's agent, said playing in the Bronx was very appealing to his client. "Pudge had a no-trade clause and he waived it today to go to New York," Boras told The Associated Press. "Pudge has always wanted to play in New York, and Detroit felt it needed a relief pitcher, so both sides were able to get what they wanted to some degree."
The busy Yankees made their second major deal in the week leading up to Thursday's trade deadline. On Friday, they acquired outfielder Xavier Nady and left-hander Damaso Marte from the Pittsburgh Pirates for four minor leaguers. The addition of Marte gave the Yankees the freedom to deal Farnsworth, who has been an inconsistent part of their bullpen for the past three seasons.
Farnsworth was 1-2 with a 3.65 ERA in 45 games, and joins a bullpen badly in need of reinforcements three days after veteran Todd Jones was removed from the closer role in Detroit.
"It's always hard, no matter what. Just one of those things you have to deal with," Farnsworth said in the Yankees' clubhouse. "I'm going someplace they want me, that's how I look at it."
Farnsworth pitched for the Tigers for the first four months of 2005, compiling a 2.32 ERA in 46 games before he was traded to the Braves at the trading deadline.
Dombrowski said it would be up to manager Jim Leyland to decide where to slot Farnsworth in the bullpen. Fernando Rodney, who has one career save, is the new closer for the Tigers.
"Kyle was a big part of our bullpen," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It was tough to see him go."
Inge said he was excited to be getting a chance to start behind the plate on an everyday basis for the first time since 2003, when he started 98 times at catcher. Since then, he's gotten most of his starts at third base.
"I wan to play every day not matter what position, so I'm pumped," he said. "Did I learn a lot from Pudge? He's a future Hall of Famer, so watching him makes everybody better. I'm not Pudge, I'll just go out and do what I can."
Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield said the trade made sense to both sides.
"This is a surprise to people if they don't know the situations of the players," he said. "Both teams get better by this, and that's what a trade is supposed to be all about."
Rodriguez appeared in the Tigers' empty dugout hours before the game and waved over to Indians players, who were taking batting practice. He then disappeared back into the tunnel.
"You talk about a Hall of Fame catcher coming in here," Girardi said. "He's the complete package. He can do everything."
Later in the day, the Yankees traded reliever LaTroy Hawkins to Houston for Class-A infielder Matt Cusick. New York designated Hawkins for assignment Saturday after acquiring Nady and Marte.
Hawkins was 1-1 with a 5.71 ERA in 33 appearances this season for the Yankees, who designated him for assignment Saturday after acquiring outfielder Xavier Nady and reliever Damaso Marte in a trade with Pittsburgh.
New York also sent cash to the Astros as part of the deal, completed one day before baseball's non-waiver trade deadline. Hawkins signed a $3.75 million, one-year contract with the Yankees last December.