Rays Notes: Fernando Rodney to Pitch in World Baseball Classic, Another Positive Drug Test
By Robbie Knopf
The World Baseball Classic is an entirely different experience compared to wait players are used to. You’re not pitching for the fame. You’re not pitching for the fortune. You’re pitching for your country and going to do everything you can to give it your best effort. In Fernando Rodney‘s case, not even the Rays could stop him.
"“You don’t have to ask permission to represent your country.”"
Fernando Rodney told the Dominican Newspaper El Caribe (as quoted in English by the Roger Mooney of Tampa Tribune) that he will pitch in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and that it will be an incredible feeling for him to put on his home country’s uniform once again. As Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times noted, Rodney tossed 4.2 scoreless innings for the Dominican Republic in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, and Rodney hopes to see similar results this time around. The Rays can’t be crazy about this- Rodney was a huge part of their success in 2012 and they need him at fulls strength for next season- but at the same time they’re paying him just 2.5 million dollars next season and they don’t have much of a right to tell him what to do. The Rays did, however, tell David Price, who will make 10.1125 million dollars in 2013, that he was not allowed to compete. The Rays can’t have a great feeling about any of their players competing in the WBC after Howell pitched in the 2009 incarnation and wound up needing shoulder surgery after combining his WBC innings with his regular season appearances, and it may have just been too much. The World Baseball Classic is definitely a great experience for those who participate, but the injury concern as you add length to an already overbearing regular season schedule is nerve-wracking and hopefully Rodney can come out of it with a positive feeling both from his performance and on the injury front.
Not again! The Rays have seen yet another player test positive for a banned substance, this their seventh such player in the last nine months. This time, it was catcher David Wendt, who split 2012 between Double-A Montgomery and High-A Charlotte, and he tested positive for methylhexaneamine, not to be confused with methamphetamine (more commonly known as meth), which four Rays prospects on the Bowling Green Hot Rods tested positive for in August. While meth is something that you can test positive for by taking other things (as Josh Sale and Ryan Brett responded after testing positive), methylhexaneamine is more of a specialty drug and pretty lucidly a performance enhancer. It’s intended to clear nasal congestion, and if your levels of it are so high that you test positive, there’s clearly something going on. I really hope Wendt’s agent isn’t about to argue that the positive test was caused by a very stuffy nose. Wendt isn’t any sort of prospect- he’s been working as an organizational backup even sense the Rays selected him in the 50th round of the 2009 MLB Draft- and this may very well end his career. What in the world is going on with drug use in the Rays system? You have to hope this is an aberration, but this is certainly not a good thing for the Rays system and they’re going to have to take steps to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
To close, Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs named the top performers of the Venezuelan Winter League, and both the top starter and top overall pitcher was Rays left-handed pitching prospect Alex Torres. Torres, coming off a horrific year at Triple-A Durham for the Rays (7.30 ERA), showed incredible peripherals in the VWL, going just 2-4 with a 4.48 ERA, but he struck out 86 while walking just 27 in 14 starts and 60.1 innings pitched. According to Cistulli’s SCOUT- statistic, which is taken using a regression formula that takes strikeouts and walks into account, Torres was head and shoulders above his competition, coming at a 60 mark (lower is better). The next lowest values were 69 among all pitchers and 75 among other starters, so Torres especially stood out. Dominance at Winter Ball does not necessarily mean much, but Torres made a breakthrough at the end of 2012, striking out 10 in his final start for the Durham Bulls, and then continued his run right into Winter Ball. Even after a regular season that saw him walk 8.2 batters per 9 innings (negating the fact that he struck out 11.9 per 9), Torres’ Winter Ball performance leaves him with a positive outlook for this coming season and the Rays are hoping that he can help them out of the bullpen in 2013 and maybe even begin the season on their roster if he pitches well enough in spring training. Torres’ repertoire has always been electric and the Rays hope that his Winter Ball performance is indicative of the fact that Torres has finally turned a corner regarding his control and command and is ready to finally make an impact in the major leagues.