He had it in him the whole time. You hear a lot about upside, but what Fernando Rodney has done this year for the Rays is beyond that. This is unrealized potential suddenly being fulfilled through never-before-seen polish. This is the perfect opportunity arising for Rodney with the Rays. This is the perfect storm of defense and luck. This is his confidence going sky-high, his emotions staying in check, and his focus sharpening substantially. This is Fernando Rodney morphing into a closer as good as anyone has ever seen. And while just about every facet of the Rays has been dragged down this year by inconsistency, a player previously known as one of the most enigmatic pitchers in baseball has become all but a constant.
Not many pitchers can throw 98 MPH. Most who do have no idea where it’s going. Even if they can control decently, it usually straightens out and they often get hit hard. Finding a pitcher who can throw 98 MPH with movement, control, and command down in the zone is a very difficult feat. It hasn’t been like that for Rodney all season, but for the most part, that is exactly what he has been able to do. But Fernando Rodney’s success has a lot to do with not just his fastball, but his changeup. For so many relievers, they have a blazing fastball, but you can really get to them if you force them to throw their second pitch. That is not the case with Rodney. Even when his fastball command has been off, his changeup is a safety net. Heis able to locate it down in the zone for called strikes. Even when his fastball stays up and way out of the zone, just the thoughts of his fastball leads to an incredible amount of swings-and-misses on his changeup. Rodney has escaped several jams by going to his changeup in the clutch, even two or three times in a row, and it just about always seems to work. Rodney’s two pitches feed off of each other perfectly- if you were trying to guess which one Rodney was going to throw, you had a 50-50 chance- and if you guess wrong, you are going to swing and miss badly.
Rodney keeps everyone engaged. The Rays’ sometimes erratic defense is on their toes when Rodney is in the game. The fans can’t get enough of Rodney’s pitching, his hat turned to the left, and his arrow-shooting towards the sky after saves. And Rodney is as locked-in as he had even been in his life. He doesn’t going to release the ball and see what happens like he did in the past. He is in control. He attacks the zone and leaves the hitter flailing trying to make contact. He rears back and deals knowing that the hitter didn’t have a chance. All season, he has been in a zone. How long will this last? Who knows. But right now, hitters step in the batter’s box with a feeling of impending doom when Rodney is on the mound. Rodney has been many times greater than anything the Rays could have asked him for. From injuries to bad luck to overall inconsistency, the Rays have caught bad breaks all season. But Fernando Rodney’s resurgence has been the stroke of luck that has kept the Rays in the thick of the race despite all those circumstances. Without Rodney, the Rays’ playoff hopes would be slim to none right now. He has done everything he could possibly do to carry the Rays this entire season.