Rangers' Rodriguez Out For Season

Tuesday, July 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — A lost season for the Texas Rangers has turned even more disheartening: All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez is out for the year with a broken right thumb.

The reigning AL MVP was injured Monday night when his hand hit Mo Vaughn's bat while making a throw against the Anaheim Angels.

``That's what happens when the team isn't going good,'' Rodriguez said. ``What can I do? But I have a strong mind and I'll be ready for spring training.''

The two-time AL West champion Rangers are 11 1/2 games behind division-leading Seattle. On June 2, center fielder Ruben Mateo — a rookie of the year candidate — broke his leg and was lost for the year.

Rodriguez, regarded by many as the best all-around catcher in the majors, began the day batting .347 with 27 home runs and 83 RBIs.

He was hurt in the first inning as Vaughn struck out swinging while Kevin Stocker was trying to steal second. Stocker was called out by home plate umpire Gerry Davis on batter's interference.

Rodriguez said Vaughn did nothing wrong, and added the Angels first baseman left a message in the Rangers clubhouse expressing his sorrow.

``I don't think it was on purpose,'' Rodriguez said. ``Mo is a very clean player.''

Vaughn expressed sadness.

``It's just unfortunate because he's such a great player,'' Vaughn said. ``Something will be missed from the game these last two months.''

Rodriguez, 28, played earlier this month in his ninth straight All-Star game. He has won eight consecutive Gold Glove awards, an AL record.

Rodriguez, the Rangers' career hits leader, will have surgery Tuesday afternoon at a Fort Worth hospital to repair the break at the base of his thumb.

Team director of medical services Dr. John Conway said Rodriguez will need 6-10 weeks for the fracture to heal. Rodriguez will be able to resume sports-related activities in 2-4 months.

Conway said there were no guarantees that Rodriguez would be able to fully recover.

``Anytime there's an injury like this, there's a possibility for a loss of performance,'' Conway said. ``But we think he'll make a full recovery.''

Earlier this year, the Rangers said Rodriguez would spend time in the offseason learning a new position, possibly second base, in hopes of reducing the rigors of catching.

The Rangers purchased the contract of catcher B.J. Waszgis from Triple-A Oklahoma. Rodriguez will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.

``As soon as it happened, my thumb went numb. There was swelling and I knew it was broken and I'd be out for the season,'' he said.

This year he had thrown out 16 of 33 (48.5 percent) would-be basestealers. Last year, he caught 54.2 percent, the fifth straight season he led the AL in that category.

Rodriguez won the MVP last year when he hit .332 with an AL-record 35 home runs by a catcher. He had 113 RBIs and scored 116 runs.

``I was having a strong season, so it's disappointing for it to end two months before it was supposed to,'' Rodriguez said. ``But there's always next season. I'll just go out and put up better numbers next year.''

Rangers general manager Doug Melvin said Rodriguez's season-ending injury, coupled with the loss of Mateo, seemed to sum up his team's season.

``This is a sad day,'' Melvin said. ``We always take Pudge for granted that he's always going to be out there. But you have to realize it can happen to anybody. You wonder which player your team can least afford to lose. He falls into that category.''

Melvin was unsure whether the loss of Rodriguez would mean his team would be more willing to trade impending free agents like David Segui and John Wetteland.

``The clock is still running on our players who are going to be free agents,'' Melvin said. ``But that doesn't change our thinking. We're still going to try and win every game that we can. This does give a chance to some of our young players.''