Tigers' Rodriguez may catch trip out

Al Notebook

Baseball Week

September 18, 2005

In the 2003 offseason, the Orioles offered three-year deals to free-agent catchers Javy Lopez and Ivan Rodriguez and waited to see which one would bite first.

It was Lopez, who signed with the Orioles for $22.5 million. Rodriguez ended up with a surprising four-year, $40 million deal with the Detroit Tigers.

If the Orioles have an extra $20 million hanging around, they likely could have both in 2006.

Rodriguez hit .334 in 2004 while Detroit won 29 more games than the previous year. Now, the honeymoon is over. The Tigers keep losing and Rodriguez, who has a no-trade clause, wants out. He has questioned the team's direction and hunger.

The problem is Rodriguez, 33, hasn't exactly been much of a winner in 2005, certainly not one worth $10 million a year. He lost about 30 pounds this offseason, and nearly 50 points has been skimmed off his 2004 batting average.

He has walked just eight times for an awful .296 on-base percentage and likely will post his worst power numbers in a decade. Furthermore, he irked teammates when he was suspended for four games after bumping an umpire and then was a day late in returning from the suspension because he took a mini-vacation to Colombia.

Young and angry

The agent for Tampa Bay Devil Rays prospect B.J. Upton is irked that general manager Chuck LaMar said publicly that Upton might be a better fit at third base than at shortstop, where the 21-year-old made 53 errors at Triple-A Durham.

Upton's agent, Larry Reynolds, suggested that if Upton, the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft, can't play shortstop for the Devil Rays, he should be traded.

This came two days after outfielder Delmon Young, the No. 1 overall pick in 2003, chastised the organization for its cheapness. Young, who hit 26 homers and drove in 99 runs in two minor league stops in 2005, did not receive a September call-up. He says it was because the franchise didn't want to start his arbitration clock.

His agent, Arn Tellem, is miffed that LaMar said the organization met with Young and his father about the decision - something Young and Tellem dispute.

"The lack of communication is mind-boggling, unprofessional, and something I have never experienced in my 25 years in this business," said Tellem, who knows a little about lack of communication. He is also Rafael Palmeiro's agent.

Ortiz's beef

The Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz is putting up Most Valuable Player-type numbers, but he predicts he won't win the award because he is a designated hitter. That's not fair, he said.

"What's the toughest thing to do in this game? Hit, right?" Ortiz said. "[Voters] don't think about that. That's all I do. If I don't hit, I lose my job."

Quick hits

Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, who was 3 when Hurricane David ravaged his Dominican Republic town, pledged $50,000 to Hurricane Katrina victims. ... The Chicago White Sox have used just six starting pitchers this season, their fewest since 1905. ... The Texas Rangers have eight players with 17 or more homers, and six with 20 or more.

League notebooks are compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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