Tucson Padres: Surprise call-up 'honor' for catcher

2012-08-11T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Surprise call-up 'honor' for catcherDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Eddy Rodriguez expected the worst when his cell phone rang.

Sitting at home in Lake Elsinore, Calif., in the evening of an off-day, which included some morning fishing, the San Diego Padres minor-leaguer thought there was no way good news awaited on the other end of the line.

It was Lake Elsinore manager Shawn Wooten, and he started the conversation by asking Rodriguez if he "was ready for this news?"

"I've been playing this game for a long time and was expecting something bad," Rodriguez said.

It's hard to blame Rodriguez. As a 26-year-old catcher in High-A with a .223 batting average, Rodriguez couldn't fathom what was coming next from Wooten.

"He said, 'You're going up to the big leagues,' and it took me some time to believe him," Rodriguez said. "It was the best-case scenario for the phone call, so I was happy to hear it."

Rodriguez, an eighth-round draft pick by Cincinnati in the 20th round of the 2006 MLB draft, was called up because starting San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal was placed on the disabled list. Ex-UA Wildcat Nick Hundley, who began the season as the team's starting backstop, was on Tucson's disabled list and Rodriguez was summoned in an emergency.

He spent the rest of the night doing two things. First, Rodriguez telephoned his mom and anyone else he could reach to relay the good news. Second, he packed for a trip he had been waiting his whole life for.

"If I didn't think I could have reached the big leagues, I wouldn't have been playing," Rodriguez said. "It was a great honor by the San Diego Padres. They believed in me a few years ago when they signed me and they apparently still do."

Four years ago, the last place it seemed like Rodriguez was going was the major leagues. The Reds released him after a 2008 minor-league season in which he hit .205 in 77 games.

He spent the next two years playing independent baseball. Before the 2011 season, he was signed by the Padres. He played 46 games for Lake Elsinore, 18 for Double-A San Antonio and six for Tucson. He batted .246 overall with 10 home runs and made enough of an impression to be brought back for 2012.

Rodriguez spent the first 87 games of this season in Lake Elsinore before being called up to San Diego.

The Padres only needed Rodriguez for a week, with Hundley now healthy. Rodriguez earned two starts in his stint with the club and homered in his first career major league at-bat.

It is, for now, the only big league hit of his career. He's back with Tucson and will split the catching duties with Rocky Gale.

"(Rodriguez) knows who he is and what he has," Tucson manager Terry Kennedy said. "He's got some pop in his bat and knows how to sit on that."

Rodriguez is happy to be in Tucson for the first time this year and eager to learn from Kennedy and continue to improve as a catcher. But after eight days in the show, he's ready to return.

"I got my taste and now I want more," Rodriguez said. "I'm in a better situation now that I'm on the 40-man roster and I know I'm on their map. The harder I work, the more they'll see.

"I know what it takes to get there now and I just have to get back."

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