Venezuelan countrymen compete for backup catcher job with San Francisco Print
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Monday, 25 February 2008 12:30
MLB Headline News

 SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Catchers Eliezer Alfonzo and Guillermo Rodriguez are countrymen and comrades competing for a roster spot with San Francisco.
There's even a chance both Venezuelans could wind up making the team and sharing backup duties behind Bengie Molina. Especially considering Molina has been nursing a strained left quadriceps muscle early in spring training, making their presence in camp all the more important.
Molina took batting practice Monday after being limited for several days. Manager Bruce Bochy, who was away from the team Monday to tend to a personal matter, isn't sure whether Molina will play in the team's Cactus League opener Thursday against the Chicago Cubs.
``I don't think for me it's a competition,'' Rodriguez said. ``He's going to try to do his best and I'm going to try to do my best. The front office, it's their decision who makes the team. It's probably a hard decision for them, but whatever the team needs I will come to the stadium every day to do my job.''
The Giants found out the hard way when they didn't have enough catching last season - in June, third baseman Pedro Feliz had to get behind the plate in an emergency situation after Alfonzo got hurt. But carrying three catchers also is a luxury most clubs can't justify because it means one fewer pitcher or position player on the bench.
The 29-year-old Alfonzo has more punch in his bat. Rodriguez, also 29, is stronger behind the plate and finally broke into the majors last season after nearly 12 years in the minor leagues. This offseason, they played against each other in winter ball back home.
``They both bring something different to the table,'' reliever Brad Hennessey said Monday. ``I don't know what they'll do with that. They could keep both. It's a tough decision.''
Alfonzo also spent more than a decade in the minors before playing parts of the past two seasons with the Giants. He made an opening-day roster last year for the first time, then batted .250 with a home run and six RBIs in 26 games before injuring his left knee in a collision at the plate June 8 and later having season-ending surgery. He appeared in 87 games in 2006, hitting .266 with 12 home runs and 39 RBIs.
For him, the most important thing now is his knee is healthy. He knows that his relationship with Rodriguez will be fine no matter what happens in the coming month.
``It's a new year and everything is fine right now. I feel very good after my surgery,'' Alfonzo said. ``We're friends. I try to do my job. Only the Giants can make the decision. When I feel 100 percent, I know I can compete with anybody - and my body feels great.''
Rodriguez, with the Giants for 11 of his 12 years playing professionally save for the 2004 campaign in the Tigers' farm system, spent the final four months of the season as Molina's backup. He hit .253 with a home run and 14 RBIs in 39 games.
This marks the first time Rodriguez has come into spring with a legitimate chance of being announced on the field opening day. It's just the second time he's been on the 40-man roster during camp, too - so it's understandable he was so anxious to get to the desert and get started.
``It was a great experience I got last year in the big leagues,'' he said. ``I got a pretty good taste and I don't want to go back down. You have to work harder to stay here.''
 

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