NEW YORK - Ivan Rodriguez was the steady hand for the Florida Marlins when they won the 2003 World Series. A year later, he was the spark that helped turn around the Detroit franchise when nobody wanted to be a Tiger.
The New York Yankees hope he can be a little of both during their push to the playoffs.
The Yankees acquired the 14-time All-Star from the Tigers yesterday in exchange for hard-throwing reliever Kyle Farnsworth, a trade that filled glaring holes for both contenders.
"Honestly, I was shocked by this, but that's baseball," Rodriguez said. "Now, I'm just looking forward to playing for the Yankees and maybe I will play against Detroit again in the playoffs."
In the option year of a $50 million deal he signed with the Tigers in February 2004, Rodriguez will step into the hole in the Yankees' lineup created by Jorge Posada's shoulder injury. Posada had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder yesterday and is out for the season.
The 36-year-old Rodriguez, who has won the Gold Glove award 13 times, is hitting .295 with five homers in 82 games this season.
Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, and Rodriguez are the only three players in baseball history with at least 12 Gold Gloves and a career .300 average or better. Rodriguez has caught 2,142 games, trailing only Carlton Fisk (2,226) and Bob Boone (2,225) in terms of longevity behind the plate.
"He's still an everyday guy," Yankees manager Brian Cashman said. "He's an upgrade in spite of everything we've got."
Rodriguez has said he wants to play next season and beyond, but for now is focusing solely on helping the Yankees catch Tampa Bay and Boston in the AL East.
"It's going to be very exciting," he said. "They are in the race and I'm ready to do my job."
Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said the team didn't want to trade Rodriguez, but had bigger needs in the bullpen. The teams began discussing the deal early yesterday and had it wrapped up about six hours later, just as the Yankees were finishing a 13-3 win over the Orioles.
The Yankees expect Rodriguez to join the team today, when they start a four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels.
"Pudge has done an outstanding job for us," Dombrowski told reporters before Detroit played the Cleveland Indians. "I'm sure he was very surprised by this, but for him this is a good situation. He's going to New York City, and they are in contention."
Scott Boras, Rodriguez's agent, said playing in the Bronx was very appealing to his client.
"Pudge had a no-trade clause and he waived it today to go to New York," Boras said. "Pudge has always wanted to play in New York and Detroit felt it needed a relief pitcher, so both sides were able to get what they wanted."
Farnsworth was 1-2 with a 3.65 ERA in 45 games, and joins a bullpen badly in need of reinforcements three days after veteran Todd Jones was removed from the closer role in Detroit.
"It's always hard, no matter what. Just one of those things you have to deal with," Farnsworth said in the Yankees' clubhouse. "I'm going someplace they want me, that's how I look at it."
Farnsworth pitched for the Tigers for the first four months of 2005, compiling a 2.32 ERA in 46 games before he was traded to the Braves at the trading deadline.
Dombrowski said it would be up to manager Jim Leyland to decide where to slot Farnsworth.
The Yankees also traded reliever LaTroy Hawkins to the Astros for minor league infielder Matt Cusick.