“¡Via con dios! That ball is outta here!” is never the phrase a pitcher wants to hear. Especially not when it’s a Grand Slam to put a game out of reach. It must be especially difficult for it to be the last phrase heard on the mound as a 15-year veteran reliever who has struggled this season. Yet, such is the case for Francisco Rodriguez.
K-Rod’s Bad Year
To say K-Rod has struggled this year is an understatement. He successfully closed 44 games last season and is fourth on the all-times saves list, but his stuff this year has been lackluster at best. His appearance in the World Baseball Classic for Team Venezuela was subpar at best, and he did not improve after rejoining the Detroit Tigers. After he blew six of 13 save opportunities, manager Brad Ausmus demoted him from closer to mop-up reliever. This frustrated Rodriguez, and he made the beef public with the media. Since then, he’s allowed seven runs on seven hits, all in just 4.2 innings. That’s not what you want to see from a solid closer. Surrendering a grand slam to Robinson Cano on June 22 was the last straw.
Allowing his grievance to leave the clubhouse was bush league at best. Then, when Ausmus gave the 35-year-old an opportunity to perform in a close game once again, he blew the chance. The Tigers did what was probably best for the organization and cut ties with the struggling reliever. The Tigers will eat the remaining $3 million remaining on his contract, as they released him outright instead of farming him for a trade. At best, the Tigers would have received the dreaded player-to-be-named-later, and would still most likely have been on the hook for K-Rod’s salary.
This season has not been the capstone that the veteran would want. He currently sits behind Lee Smith, Trevor Hoffman, and Mariano Rivera in all-time saves. However, this year with the Tigers was just not a quality one for him. His legacy as a closer should remain. He pitched well in 920 games; the last 28 stand as outliers. With the Tigers eating his salary, a team with a pen full of sore arms could scoop him up. Joe Maddon‘s Chicago Cubs love reclamation projects and could use an arm. The same could be said for any team gearing up for a playoff run. However, it is likely that, if a playoff bound team were to have an interest in him, it would not be as a closer. Using him for middle/late relief could work.
Getting a chance to perform at his best and make up for the last 28 games would be good for K-Rod. Surely one general manager will take a risk on him. The Cubs and the Minnesota Twins are both in dire need of pitching.
Bruce Rondon called up
To take K-Rod’s place in the bullpen, the Tigers recalled fireballing right-handed pitcher Bruce Rondon from Triple A-Toledo. Rondon throws a triple-digit fastball. He struggled early in the season before being sent back down to Toledo, but he has shown some improvement since. Rondon will give the Tigers a needed reliable arm to bolster their bullpen. He should join the team for the series at PetCo Park. Bringing up a 100 MPH fastball pitcher may be just the spark that the Tigers need to right the ship.