ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Fernando Rodney said he's not panicking despite his early season struggles, that his confidence is still strong, and it's "too early" to consider stripping him of his role as Rays closer.
Rodney, who left without speaking to reporters after blowing his major-league-high fifth save in Saturday's 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Yankees, was in an upbeat and "positive" mood Sunday morning, believing he can turn it around. And though Rodney has a 6.05 ERA, the All-Star appreciates that manager Joe Maddon is sticking with him.
"He trusts me," Rodney said. "He knows that I've got the stuff, I can do it. That's not happening right now. I'm going to keep the same mentality. Just come ready for the next day."
Two of the all-time greatest closers were at Tropicana Field on Sunday, and they can empathize with Rodney's situation. Dennis Eckersley, the Hall of Famer in town working for TBS, and Yankees RHP Mariano Rivera, the all-time saves leader, said those difficult defeats come with the coveted role, and the key is moving on quickly.
"When you get them in clumps, you're in trouble, because all the attention comes right at you," Eckersley said of blown saves. "And because of what (Rodney) did last year … it's inevitable that something is going to go wrong, you just hope that it doesn't come in threes. You feel like you let the team down."
Rodney broke Eckersley's mark for lowest single-season ERA (0.60) by a reliever last year, when he finished fifth in the American League Cy Young race. His biggest problem has been walks: He has 18 after allowing 15 all of last year.
"Obviously the confidence is there," Eckersley said. "He's got the stuff. His command is (messed) up. He's a little off, a little tick. … But he's been doing it for a while, and he's in the right environment for it. When you're good like that, they come after you. Don't be so good!"
WALK THIS WAY: Maddon said neither Rodney nor RHP Joel Peralta should have had to "lift their arm up at all" Sunday, with the Rays entering the ninth leading 8-0. But after LHP Cesar Ramos, brought in with one out and one on, gave up two walks and a two-run double, Maddon reluctantly brought in Peralta to seal the deal.
"We've got to be better than that," Maddon said. "The walks are really the annoying part of it. We're walking way too many guys in the bullpen."
Ramos made no excuses: "It's unacceptable on my part."
ALL OVER: LF Sean Rodriguez had a busy day, reaching base three times, scoring three runs and hitting a two-run homer in the third inning off LHP CC Sabathia to make it 4-0. "That was a big play," Maddon said.
What also impressed Maddon was Rodriguez's run-saving dash in the eighth inning. With one out, the Yankees' Ichiro Suzuki hit a sinking liner that got past diving CF Desmond Jennings and rolled to the left-center wall. Rodriguez raced back, retrieved the ball and got it in quickly enough to hold Ichiro to a triple. Ichiro was stranded.
"Not many guys would have made that kind of effort," Maddon said.
Said Rodriguez: "It just comes with the mind-set, just sit there and tell yourself, 'I'm going to play one way no matter what, 8-0, 7-0, 1-0.' It's not easier on the body, but that's what they've got ice for."
STEPPING IN: Rookie RHP Jake Odorizzi expects that he'll have fewer nerves today in his second start, having gotten that out of the way in his Rays debut last Monday in Toronto.
He hopes that will translate into better results. He allowed two first-inning runs against the Blue Jays before settling in to retire nine of his final 10 batters in a five-inning no-decision.
"I just think settling in was the big thing," Odorizzi said. "Once I got settled in, got comfortable, everything was a lot better. … I'm going to do the same thing I did last game and hopefully be locked in from the get-go."