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Contract won't distract Rays' Rodney

PORT CHARLOTTE

Fernando Rodney really can't do any more for an encore. • Coming off one of the most remarkable seasons for a closer in baseball history, Rodney came into Rays camp Wednesday saying he'll do everything he can to do just as well but knowing a repeat is unlikely, that it was just one of those years when "something happened" and everything went right. • "I'm going to try again and I hope it happens," Rodney said. "I feel like I have the stuff. I feel like I can do it again. I'm not going to guarantee that, but I'm going to try." • What he said he won't do — despite recent suggestions otherwise — is complain about his contract which, based on last season's success

— 48 saves (in 50 chances) and an MLB reliever record 0.60 ERA — is a tremendous bargain for the Rays, a $2.5 million option.

"I'm not mad," he said. "I don't have any other deal. I have to play. I know this deal. There's nothing we can do about it. Just try to do the same thing, try to do my job, and we'll see what happens this year."

The contract became a bit of a controversy last month when Rodney was quoted in the Dominican Republic newspaper El Dia saying he had a two-year extension in place and was just waiting for it to be finalized, then made similar comments a few days later to an mlb.com reporter. That was news to both the Rays and recently hired agent Dan Lozano, since there had not been, and still haven't been, any talks.

But Rodney said Wednesday that he was misunderstood — twice, apparently — and is not expecting anything to get done.

"I never said that," he said. "Maybe I said I'm going to try to get some kind of extension, but I didn't say I'm going to get two years, three years, whatever was in there. I never said that."

Not that he wouldn't be open to it.

"Yeah, I'd like to stay here," he said. "Maybe if I have the chance to get an extension I'll take it. I have to keep working and see what happens."

Obviously it's the money that will matter, as he will be eligible for a potential free-agent haul if he comes closer to last season's success than the struggles from much of the previous two with the Angels.

"Fernando obviously had a tremendous season in 2012; that's an understatement in terms of what he accomplished on the mound," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "He was equally as impressive in the clubhouse as a teammate. And we have supreme confidence in what he can accomplish for us in 2013 in terms of helping us reach our collective goal. We don't comment on contract negotiations, whether ongoing or not, but in a vacuum, Fernando, and who he is, fits us extremely well."

Manager Joe Maddon thought back to a year ago, when Rodney, signed for $1.75 million plus the option, came to camp on something of a flyer.

"Kyle (Farnsworth) was pretty much going to be the closer, the ninth-inning guy, and Fernando, we were trying to get him back on his feet, working back into it, talking to him in meetings about picking out the optimal spot to put him in the seventh or eighth inning to work back into it," Maddon said. "That was the conversation last year at this time. It was not the best ERA in the history of baseball and that many saves and nailing it down the way he did.

"Retrospectively, it's kind of incredible actually what he did coming off the previous couple years in Anaheim. And how he did it — he was so dominant."

Rodney, who turns 36 in March, said he feels physically capable of a repeat, already sharp from pitching in winter ball and the Caribbean Series, and with plans to take part in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

But he does have one thing to work on this spring: teaching James Loney, who takes over for Carlos Peña at first base, how to track the "arrow" he shoots in his unique postgame celebration.

"That comes back," Rodney said. "I'm starting today practicing."

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.

>>fast facts

Fernando the Great

A look a Fernando Rodney's 2012 season:

0.60 ERA, lowest by a reliever (min. 50 IP), breaking Dennis Eckersley's 1990 record

48 saves, a team record, second in MLB

96 pct. save pct., MLB best (48 for 50)

76 games, a career-high appearances

Contract won't distract Rays' Rodney 02/13/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 10:23pm]

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