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Leyland Speaks Highly of Pudge

In his Sunday notes column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo chatted with Jim Leyland about Pudge Rodriguez, who isn't drawing much interest on the free agent market this winter. The Detroit Tigers' manager wouldn't take any bait dangled toward criticizing his former catcher, however.

"I have nothing bad to say about that guy," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "It got to the point with us where he wanted more than we were willing to give and we decided to make a deal. But I have the utmost respect for him as a player. He's in phenomenal shape. He plays hurt, wants to play every day, and he's a great guy on a team."

Besides defending his decision to platoon his catchers (which Rodriguez's higher batting average seemed to support), Leyland also addresses the question of how Pudge handles a pitching staff.

"He's fine. It's amazing to me, and one of the biggest fallacies in major league baseball and a real pet peeve of mine is if you have a pitching staff that isn't doing the job, it's automatically the catcher's fault. Well, I'm here to tell you, our pitching problems last year had nothing to do with Pudge Rodriguez. We didn't do a lot of things right last year."

Not even leaving a little wiggle room for any excuses, is he? But Leyland is also mostly sticking up for Pudge. He acknowledges, however, that not many teams have called to ask what he thinks of his old catcher.