Former Mariner got is confidence back last season with Cubs, then signed deal to join the Padres
Look at this stat line and guess which reliever it belongs to: 19 appearances, 10 for 10 in save opportunities, 0.00 ERA in 19 innings pitched, nine walks and 17 strikeouts with opponents hitting just .131.
A hint: He’s been one of the most successful closers in the National League.
Another hint: He’s a former Mariner.
Yep, it belongs to Fernando Rodney. The one-time Mariners’ closer is bringing The Fernando Rodney Experience and his sling of imaginary arrows back to Safeco Field as the closer for the San Diego Padres. Rodney is in the midst of a bounce-back year after a 2015 season that saw him lose his closing job and then be designated for assignment by Seattle.
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“It’s been good,” Rodney said sheepishly.
What’s the secret? Fastball command.
Rodney is throwing his fastball, which sits at 96 mph, with better location.
“That’s been the big thing,” he said. “It’s been my best pitch. I’m able to put my fastball where I want it — both sides of the plate. I can throw my change-up for a strike whenever I want, but hitters would sit and look for that pitch when I couldn’t throw my fastball for strikes. It was kind of difficult for me last year here.”
Rodney understood all the reasons he was designated for assignment by the Mariners on Aug. 23. At that point, he was 5-5 with six blown saves and a 5.88 ERA. He had walked 25 batters with 43 strikeouts in 502/3 innings pitched.
“It wasn’t good,” he said. “But it worked out pretty good for me.”
Indeed, Rodney was traded to the Cubs and was part of the postseason run. He trusted Cubs manager Joe Maddon and rediscovered some of his confidence.
“It was not a bad place to go,” he said. “He told me it doesn’t matter if you walk two guys, just pitch and attack and not worry. I think it helped me.”
This past offseason, Rodney signed with the Padres with a one-year, $2 million contract with incentives.
“I had a lot of options,” he said. “I told teams I wanted a chance to be the closer. I wanted to go (San Diego) because they told me I was going be the closer.”
Asked about his old team, he was very complimentary of the Mariners’ success and his friends — Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.
“They are doing great,” he said. “Robby looks very relaxed and looks like he’s feeling good.”
Of course, the idea of getting a save against his old teammates and performing his post-save ritual of firing the imaginary arrow made him smile.
“If I get the chance, rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.
• Dae-Ho Lee’s seven home runs is third best among American League rookies behind Byung Ho Park (nine) of the Twins and Nomar Mazara (eight) of the Rangers.
• With a walk in the eighth inning, Cano has reached base in 28 consecutive games.