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Banister saw greatness in Pudge early on

MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- Jeff Banister's first impression of Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was similar to the one most opponents had. He remembers playing against him when Rodriguez was a freshly signed 16-year-old in an instructional game, and the Rangers manager got a taste of the damage Pudge would inflict on baserunners for a long time.

"It's kind of funny -- we played a game against him, and we got a really close look at the arm," Banister said. "We didn't know anything about him. ... We had a baserunner on first base, and within, I don't know, the first three pitches? -- he was eliminated at first base by Pudge. [We were] like, 'What just happened here?' That's how quick he was. It was an instructional league game or something. ... Somebody tried to run, [Pudge] threw him out."

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ARLINGTON -- Jeff Banister's first impression of Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez was similar to the one most opponents had. He remembers playing against him when Rodriguez was a freshly signed 16-year-old in an instructional game, and the Rangers manager got a taste of the damage Pudge would inflict on baserunners for a long time.

"It's kind of funny -- we played a game against him, and we got a really close look at the arm," Banister said. "We didn't know anything about him. ... We had a baserunner on first base, and within, I don't know, the first three pitches? -- he was eliminated at first base by Pudge. [We were] like, 'What just happened here?' That's how quick he was. It was an instructional league game or something. ... Somebody tried to run, [Pudge] threw him out."

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:: 2017 Hall of Fame induction coverage ::

So as Rodriguez was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, Banister offered some thoughts on one of the best players to ever put on a Rangers uniform. Banister remembered noticing how Rodriguez carried himself in the opposing dugout, and he recalled observing the transformation of Rodriguez's career from a young player with a "lively" skill set into one of the greatest catchers ever.

"When you're sitting in the other dugout, he's one of those guys that -- early, when he's young -- you might say, 'Oh, he's cocky,' but that's just how he played," Banister said. "Great energy and very assured of himself.

"And then you watch the transformation of the offense. The home runs, the RBIs, and he had that knack for, in certain situations inside the game, he'd come up big, and let his emotions show. Pretty much complete behind the plate, a real weapon. He's one of the few catchers you can think of who would eliminate the running game, on his own, just, hey, you can't get very far off, or he's going to pick you off, so you're not going to get a great jump. [But] you'd have to have a great jump to even get close to being safe."

Rangers beat

• Righty A.J. Griffin was scheduled to throw 90 pitches in a rehab outing with Triple-A Round Rock on Saturday, but finished with 40 pitches in two innings. Both he and Banister said it wasn't because of injury, but because they didn't want to work him too much in case he's needed to start a game this week for the Rangers.

• Prior to Sunday's game, the Rangers made a waiver claim on infielder Tyler Smith from the Mariners. They optioned him to Round Rock, giving them 39 men on the 40-man roster.

Tony Barnette recorded a career-high six strikeouts over three scoreless innings Saturday. He has a 0.90 ERA in five relief outings during the month of July and has 17 strikeouts to just two walks. His 15.30 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate this month is the highest in Rangers history.

Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arlington.

Texas Rangers