- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

KISSIMMEE, FLA. (AP) - Ivan Rodriguez is set to join the Houston Astros as soon as his physical is complete.

The 13-time Gold Glove winner said Thursday that he plans to join the team Sunday and hopes to play that day.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “It’s nice. I think it’s a good team and I think probably what I got to do is just meet the players and spend time with them for the next two weeks and be ready for opening day.”

He and the Astros have agreed to a one-year, $1.5 million contract, but the signing hasn’t been officially announced by the team pending the results of his physical.

The Astros needed a veteran catcher to replace Brad Ausmus, who became a free agent and signed with the Dodgers. Last year, the Astros used Ausmus, Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles behind the plate.

Rodriguez will likely start in Houston, moving Quintero, who had been projected to start, into the backup role.

Rodriguez expects to be ready for opening day despite signing late because of the work he got playing for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

“I feel that way of course,” he said. “I feel very good playing. I always work hard, but this year I worked very hard doing my normal program, my running and doing weights and I feel good. So I look forward to staying healthy and trying to have a good year for the Astros.”

The 37-year-old hit .276 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 115 games last season with Detroit and the Yankees, who acquired him in July.

Rodriguez spent 12 seasons with the Rangers before going to Florida where he won a World Series in 2003. He said he likes Texas and is looking forward to returning to the state.

Most of the team was in Port St. Lucie for a game against the Mets when Rodriguez dropped by Houston’s training facility Thursday, but he did chat with a several players including Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee.

“I met a few … I just look forward to meeting everybody on Sunday,” he said.

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