Rays ink veteran Rodney to one-year deal
Right-hander strengthens back end of Tampa Bay's bullpen
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays bolstered the back end of their bullpen Wednesday by signing veteran reliever Fernando Rodney.
Rodney signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal, and the Rays hold a $2.5 million option for 2013, with a $250,000 buyout. The 5-foot-11, 220-pound right-hander will join incumbent closer Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta to give Tampa Bay several formidable options at the end of the game.
"The manager, Joe Maddon, allows the players to be themselves and play well, and all the players play hard for Maddon and I'm very excited to be playing for the ballclub," Rodney said through a translator on a conference call. "And that motivated me to sign with Tampa Bay."
Rodney, 34, went 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA in 39 appearances for the Angels in 2011. He is 22-38 with a 4.29 ERA and 87 saves in a nine-year Major League career.
"Fernando's pure stuff is top-notch and can beat hitters both in and out of the strike zone," said Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "We feel he will be able to maximize his ability with us to further strengthen our bullpen."
Building their bullpen from the back end is hardly a new philosophy for the Rays. Veteran closer Troy Percival was brought in prior to the 2008 season, and Rafael Soriano was acquired prior to the '10 campaign. In both cases, Tampa Bay emerged as American League East champions.
"Physically and mentally, I am ready for any role that is handed to me," Rodney said. "Whether it's the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth inning, it doesn't matter. I'm going in with the attitude that whatever the manager wants me to do, that's what I'm going to do."
Rodney's best season came with the Tigers in 2009, when he posted 37 saves in 38 opportunities over 73 appearances. That season also earned the Samana, Dominican Republic, native notoriety when he threw a ball from the field into the Tropicana Field press box after he recorded the final out of the game. That episode cost him a three-game suspension.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times is the chairman of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America and had been the one to email MLB detailing the episode afterward. Prior to Wednesday's conference call, Rodney called Topkin to apologize for what happened, telling him that what he did was a result of his being frustrated.
Rodney, who missed 35 games last year with a strained upper back, has had only 17 saves in the past two seasons for the Angels, the team with which he signed a two-year, $11 million deal following the 2009 season.
Rodney sounded confident about reaching his old form.
"The way I feel physically and mentally at this point, if I'm given the opportunity to go out there and throw the ball the way I have in the past -- due to how well prepared I feel physically and mentally -- I certainly can go back to those days," Rodney said. "They just have to give me the ball and allow me to pitch."
Rodney becomes the third offseason addition to the Rays' bullpen. Earlier this winter, the team acquired right-handers Josh Lueke and Burke Badenhop in trades with Seattle and Miami, respectively.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.