ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon has said repeatedly that he feels comfortable with any of his relievers recording the final out of any game. With one weekend of the regular season in the books, Fernando Rodney has done the honors all three times.
Maddon never officially named Kyle Farnsworth his closer, but the right-hander recorded 25 saves and finished 51 games for Tampa Bay in 2011. With Farnsworth sidelined for four to six weeks due to a strained right elbow, Maddon said that role wouldn't be assumed by just one pitcher, but it would vary based on who was available, who presented the best matchups and who was deemed the best fit for the moment.
Over the first three days of the season, that's been Rodney.
"He's pitched in the ninth," Maddon said. "It just happened to be his moment, just based on the matchups."
The veteran right-hander picked up the win in Friday's dramatic walk-off victory over the Yankees, recording three outs in the ninth inning with one strikeout. Rodney needed only one pitch to get the save in Saturday's 8-6 win, inducing an Alex Rodriguez groundout to end the game.
And Sunday brought more of the same, as Rodney put the finishing touches on an excellent outing from starter Jeremy Hellickson by getting the final out -- a grounder from Raul Ibanez that the right-hander fielded and tossed to first baseman Carlos Pena for the final out and his second save in as many days.
"Just take advantage -- I made good pitches, and that's what happens," Rodney said. "I make good pitches, go out and close the game. ... I feel really comfortable right now."
Rodney has plenty of experience in that role. He finished 45 games and recorded 17 saves over the past two seasons for the Angels, and he had 37 saves with 65 games finished in 2009 with the Tigers. He has 88 career saves and has finished 226 games over his 10-year career. So the situations Rodney found himself in this weekend were nothing new to him.
"I think it's just an opportunity I have, and when he comes back, I know that's Farnsworth's job," Rodney said. "But I have to keep going. That's what the team needs."
But it doesn't need a closer -- which works out well, because, as Maddon said, that's not what Rodney was this weekend.
"He's a really good late-inning relief pitcher," Maddon said.