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Pudge earns AL Player of the Month
07/03/2004 7:03 PM ET
DENVER -- His chances of getting a hit in June each at-bat were .500. His chances of winning AL Player of the Month seemed about .999.

"Big surprise," manager Alan Trammell joked.

The announcement that Ivan Rodriguez won the June award came down Saturday afternoon, two days after his 3-for-4 effort made him the first Major League player since Todd Helton in 2000 -- and the third in the past 25 years -- to hit .500 in a month with at least 75 at-bats. He's the first Tiger with a .500 month since Ty Cobb in June 1911 and July 1912, according to Trent McCotter of the Society for American Baseball Research.

No one else on the AL Player of the Month ballot hit as high as .400.

"I don't know, there were a lot of players who had good months, too," Rodriguez said. "But I appreciated that they picked me."

Rodriguez hit in every game he played but one -- the second game of a day-night doubleheader on June 17, in which he entered as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter and went 0-for-2. His 0-for-4 game Friday at Coors Field marked the first time he went hitless in a game he started since May 28 against Baltimore. That was the game he was ejected by home-plate umpire Paul Schreiber for arguing a called third strike.

   Ivan Rodriguez  /   C
Born: 11/30/71
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Take that out of consideration, and he hadn't gone 0-for-4 in a game since May 26 at Kansas City. He hadn't gone 0-for-6 in a game since April 23, 2001 with the Rangers. Even so, his .376 average entering Saturday topped all other Major Leaguers by at least 23 points.

AL Player of the Month is the first major honor for Rodriguez since he signed a four-year contract with the Tigers in February, but it won't take long to earn another. All-Star Game rosters will be announced Sunday, and since Pudge has been leading AL catchers in balloting since updates began a month ago, it would be a surprise if he didn't hold onto his 500,000 vote lead in the final results.

It's the first time in five years that Rodriguez earned a league player of the month award. Pudge last won it in August 1999 and captured it for the first time in April 1998. Cecil Fielder was Detroit's last AL Player of the Month in August 1990, when he hit .298 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs. Steve Sparks won AL Pitcher of the Month honors in August 2000.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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