Is It Time for the Rays to Remove Fernando Rodney From the Closer Role?

By David Hill

For one season, Fernando Rodney erased the memory of what he had been – an essentially league average pitcher who, at age 34, appeared to be on his last chance to be in the major leagues. Nothing much was expected of him heading into Spring Training that year, as Kyle Farnsworth had established himself as a viable closer. Joel Peralta and even Jake McGee seemed as though they may be ahead of Rodney in the pecking order should anything happen to Farnsworth.

Then, Rodney managed to pull off one of the truly great ‘out of nowhere’ seasons, joining the likes of Fred Dunlap, Roger Maris and Steve Stone. Last year, he set an all time mark for the lowest ERA for any pitcher with 50+ innings of work, as he made his first All-Star team, finished fifth in the Cy Young voting, and was 13th in the MVP vote.

Even though virtually everyone expected Rodney to regress this season, no one expected the bottom to fall out like it has. Right now, Rodney is in the midst of his worst season in the majors, with a 1-2 record, 5.40 ERA, and having blown four of thirteen save opportunities. Last night’s outing was particularly painful. After Jeremy Hellickson turned in his best start of the season, Rodney came in and promptly blew the save, giving up a home run to Jose Bautista. Yes, it is Bautista, one of the more feared power hitters in the league, but this is still the continuation of a disturbing lack of success this year.

For the Rays to continue to rank as a contender in a very competitive AL East, they likely cannot afford to be giving back these types of games, particularly in the ninth inning. Even though it is just two months into the season, these games may come back to haunt the Rays, especially since they find themselves four games out of first. It may be coming time for Joe Maddon to make a decision – how much longer can he wait for Rodney to turn things around?

Rodney definitely earned himself the opportunity to get on track, but this is not just one bad week. He has been mediocre, with the occasional glimpse of excellence that he displayed last season. But his time closing games may be, at least temporarily, coming to an end. Two or three good games cannot erase the entire season, especially when that momentum has not been able to be sustained.

The time for Maddon to make a decision with his closer may be at hand. And Fernando Rodney has not done anything to help his case.