02/14/2013 2:00 PM ET
Rodney looks to repeat historic performance
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Fernando Rodney produced a historic season as the Rays' closer in 2012 when he set a Major League record for a relief pitcher (minimum of 50 innings) with his 0.60 ERA, breaking Dennis Eckersley's record of 0.61 set in 1990.
Along the way, Rodney also set a club record with 48 saves.
There's no doubt the Dominican Republic native has set a high bar for himself as far as repeating his performance this season, and manager Joe Maddon seems to be resigned to that fact.
"It's very difficult to repeat what he did," Maddon said, "and I don't want him to think that way. I want him to just go out there and pitch, and we'll take care of how to rest and utilize him."
Rodney signed with the Rays as a free agent on Jan. 4, 2012, and he was expected to be a member of the bullpen, but not the closer. That job had been earmarked for Kyle Farnsworth, who converted 25 of 31 save opportunities in 2011. When Farnsworth started last season on the disabled list, Rodney claimed the job.
"I have to believe [Rodney's] confidence can't be any higher," Maddon said. "Just when he's walking around you can see the look in his eye about how happy he is to be here. It would be impossible to repeat . I would agree, but I think he'll be pretty close."
Rodney managed a smile when asked about trying to repeat his 2012 performance this season.
"I think it's hard to repeat," Rodney said, "but I know what I have to do."
Rays fans grew to love Rodney's theatrics after saving a game when he would shoot an imaginary arrow into the sky. When asked if he had plenty of arrows ready for the season, Rodney beamed: "I have a lot of arrows. Maybe even some flaming arrows."
Maddon was asked if 35 saves with a 1.60 ERA would be considered a down year for Rodney.
"It could be considered that," Maddon said, "but as long as the Rays win and we get back to the playoffs and the World Series, I'll be happy with that."
Lobaton, Gimenez vying for backup catcher's job
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Jose Molina will again be the Rays' starting catcher, but who will be the backup? Right now, Jose Lobaton and Chris Gimenez appear to be the most likely candidates.
"Lobaton did a great job [last year]," manager Joe Maddon said. "They're all going to get their opportunities to play here. I thought [Chris] Gimenez also did very well at the end of last season. He's got this really good way about him. He's a hard player, the pitchers really dig him, he's very professional about how he goes about his business whereas Lobaton's got some really high-ceiling tools yet that we think he can bring."
Other candidates for the job include Robinson Chirinos and Stephen Vogt.
"You're going to see all these guys play it out," Maddon said. "We'll try to make our best determination by the end. Lobaton has a lot of ability in there that I think you're going to see show up. Gimenez, character-wise, make-up wise, really a great guy within the clubhouse, and the pitchers love him."
Brignac traded to Rockies
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Reid Brignac was traded to the Rockies on Thursday for cash considerations and a player to be named.
Brignac, along with Elliot Johnson, was taken off the Rays' 40-man roster last week to make room for Kyle Farnsworth and Kelly Johnson.
Brignac, 27, appeared perched to take over the Rays' shortstop job when Jason Bartlett was traded to the Padres prior to the 2011 season. But Brignac's bat did not match his excellence in the field, which resulted in him spending most of last season at Triple-A Durham. He played in just 16 Major League games in 2012 and hit .095.
The native of St. Amant, La., was originally signed by the Rays after they selected him with the 45th overall pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Brignac has a .231 career average with 10 home runs and 66 RBIs in 240 Major League games.
Longoria taking on more of leadership role
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- With five Major League seasons under his belt, Evan Longoria is now one of the Rays' elder statesmen. The 27-year-old told himself coming into Spring Training this season that he would "do a better job at meeting the new guys and just making myself available for them."
"I don't really want to be the vocal leader, that's never been me," Longoria said. "I've always been the guy to lead by example and just go about my business and go that way. But I did kind of tell myself to make a point of introducing myself and letting [my new teammates] know that we're happy to have them here -- doing the same thing that Joe [Maddon] does. Having that open-door policy and making myself available if they have any questions about the way that the team runs or the way that the organization runs, stuff like that."
Hernandez to be stretched out as starter in camp
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Roberto Hernandez talked briefly about joining the Rays this spring after seven Major League seasons with the Indians.
Speculation about where he might be used on the Rays' staff was answered Thursday -- at least for the time being -- by Hernandez and Maddon.
Hernandez considers himself a starter and smiled when asked about pitching in the bullpen, without elaborating. The 30-year-old right-hander has pitched in 184 Major League games, and 153 of those appearances have been in a starting role.
When asked about Hernandez's projected role, Maddon said: "We will treat him as a starter right now."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.