Advertisement
  1. Rays

Tampa Bay Rays' Fernando Rodney revitalized after two frustrating seasons with Angels

A revitalized Fernando Rodney is perfect in five save opportunities for the Rays, who signed him after two frustrating seasons with the Angels, coming to town for three games this week.
Published Apr. 24, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Fernando Rodney said he has worn his cap tilted to the side ever since 2002, when he was playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and wanted to do "something different."

But Rodney has never seen teammates respond to it like the Rays did Saturday, mimicking the style with their green Earth Day hats during batting practice. C Chris Gimenez called it "Rodney BP Day," pointing out even "country boy" Jeff Keppinger joined in.

"That's the first time I've been with a team like that," Rodney said, smiling. "That's something crazy."

Rodney is comfortable and confident in his first season with the Rays, and it shows. He has finished all but one of the team's nine wins, converting five consecutive saves while holding opponents to a .083 average. With Kyle Farnsworth injured, Rodney has returned to a familiar role closing games, just in time to welcome the Angels, who he felt gave up on him too soon last year.

"I'm going to be happy," Rodney said. "I'm in the ninth inning — to show them I can do that."

Rodney, who saved 37 games for Detroit in 2009, had a disappointing stint in Anaheim after signing a two-year, $11 million deal. He lost the closer's role early last season, injured his back and was barely used down the stretch. But having made some mechanical adjustments, Rodney has better command of his fastball and is thriving in a one-year, $2 million deal with Tampa Bay.

"I feel comfortable, they believe, they give you the ball," said Rodney, 35. "They trust you."

Pitching coach Jim Hickey is not surprised, considering Rodney's success with the Tigers. "There's nothing like a little bit of success to make you feel like you're bulletproof and 10 feet tall," Hickey said. "And hopefully, that's the way he feels right now."

Rodney has been loose since joining the Rays in spring training, sometimes dancing and cracking jokes. Teammates have called him Kimbo Slice, due to his resemblance to the famous mixed martial arts star. Rodney has a swagger, but, as reliever J.P. Howell says, "smiles during the ugliest moments and doesn't ever infect anyone with any negativity."

Rodney boasts a mid 90s fastball and what Evan Longoria describes as a "devastating" changeup, but it's his composure that stands out.

"He's got ice in his veins," Longoria said.

Howell was most impressed with Rodney when he closed out the Rays' 1-0 win in Boston on April 16. That's when Rodney first started his post-save routine of pretending to shoot a bow and arrow into the sky. Rodney says he does it because, like the Yankees and Red Sox, the Rays can play nine innings and "make something happen." "I love it, it pumps me up," Howell said.

Said Hickey: "It's like he's shooting an arrow up to the heavens. And he might be doing that, who knows?"

PRICE CHECK: LHP David Price said he physically feels good entering tonight's start with the Angels, another difficult challenge considering he has already faced the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays.

"That's what it's about, if you can get through this and put some good outings (together), it's good for your confidence," Price said.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. If the Rays end up popping champagne bottles, like they did in 2013 after beating the Texas Rangers 5-2 in an American League wild-card tiebreaker, don't expect the clincher to come at home. TONY GUTIERREZ  |  AP
    Don’t expect a quick clincher as the team enters its final homestand of the regular season.
  2. Pete Alonso may soon join Jose Fernandez (2013), Chris Coghlan (2009), Dwight Gooden (1984) and Lou Piniella (1969) as Tampa Bay area high school products who won a Rookie of the Year Award. Alonso extended his NL rookie record for homers to 49 on Wednesday in Colorado. DAVID ZALUBOWSKI  |  AP
    The Mets rookie from Plant High is on his way to winning NL Rookie of the Year with his 49 homers. Is that the greatest season of a bay area product?
  3. Tampa Bay Rays' Austin Meadows, left, is congratulated by Avisail Garcia after hitting a solo home run during the 11th inning of the team's baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Rays won 8-7. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) MARK J. TERRILL  |  AP
    On Emilio Pagan’s prognosticating prowess, Pete Fairbanks’ colorful celebration, Tommy Pham’s good fortune (and good hitting).
  4. Tampa Bay Rays' Willy Adames, left, scores on a throwing error by Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger after a single by Jesus Aguilar, as catcher Will Smith goes after the ball during the sixth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) MARK J. TERRILL  |  AP
    Rays 8, Dodgers 7 (11): A one-out rally in the 9th allows Rays to tie, then a Meadows homer in 11th puts them ahead to stay.
  5. Rays rookie starter Brendan McKay delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Dodgers on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. MARK J. TERRILL  |  AP
    “Super cool” is how he describes the opportunity Wednesday against the Dodgers.
  6. Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Nate Lowe (35) is seen in the dugout during the third inning against Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, Sept. 07, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.   ALLIE GOULDING  |  Times
    Lowe make his fourth pro start at third in a critical game for Rays; Brendan McKay is on the mound.
  7. Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Colin Poche, shown pitching last month in Houston, has had a tough stretch at times,. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) MICHAEL WYKE  |  AP
    Rookie relievers, pitching in September for the first time, are high on that list, and it’s quite noticeable when they falter.
  8. Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Colin Poche leaves the field after giving up two runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) CHRIS CARLSON  |  AP
    Dodgers 7, Rays 5: Snell’s solid return aside, it was a lost night for Rays as rookie relievers Poche and Fairbanks struggled.
  9. Tampa Bay Rays' Tommy Pham, right, connects for a double in front of Houston Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos, left, during a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke) MICHAEL WYKE  |  AP
    Rays Journal: Pham is dealing with right hand and elbow injuries that have limited his production: “It’s frustrating.”
  10. Picturesque Dodger Stadium, where Rays take on Dodgers tonight. MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rays visiting NL best in a YouTube only game, third visit to Dodger Stadium in seven years after none in first 15.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement