2009 Player Profile: Fernando Rodney

Fernando Rodney #56

  • Height: 5′ 11″ | Weight: 220
  • 2008 Stats: 0-6, 4.91 ERA, 13 Saves

In a bottom-line business like major league baseball, fans tend to overlook stats such as 49 strikeouts in 40 innings or 13 saves from a late-inning reliever like Fernando Rodney. RodneyHead.jpgSix blown saves and an ERA a whisker under five are more glaring and more representative of Detroit’s bullpen woes in 2008. Yet despite that lackluster campaign, the Tigers expect big things from Rodney in ’09.

Though he spent April and May on the DL, the ’08 season wasn’t all bad for the senior-ranking Tiger in the bullpen; he assembled stretches of lights-out appearances, including June and July in which hitters produced a .183 average against him. Over that same timeframe he fanned 37 in 27.1 innings pitched. The key to success for Rodney is a breathtaking changeup that, when near the plate, is difficult for hitters to resist. Of course, a high-90s fastball makes the off-speed pitches that much more tantalizing.

With Todd Jones’ retirement, Brandon Lyon‘s arrival and Joel Zumaya’s (tentative) return, chances are that Rodney will begin 2009 as a setup man. If something goes wrong with Lyon or Zumaya and if Rodney can harness his pitches, develop consistency, and fortify his mental makeup, he could, in the end, be the Tigers’ answer at closer.

For a pitcher with Rodney’s track record, that’s an awful lot of ifs.

Meet Brandon Lyon

BrandonLyon.jpgWhenever I watched Brandon Lyon pitch for the Diamondbacks the past couple of seasons, my immediate reaction was always he’s a younger Todd Jones.

Fact is, he throws harder than Jones — which can’t hurt — but no one is going to confuse him with Joe Nathan.

Last season wasn’t a pleasant one for the D-backs’ closer, a position he lost to Chad Qualls. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Despite four blown saves in 23 chances in the first half, hitters managed a .243 average against him and his ERA was 2.43. (Compare that to Jones’s 4.95 ERA and .297 opponents’ average in the first half.)

In terms of repertoire, it doesn’t extend far past a fastball and curve. In fact, that’s it. But the curveball is something to behold; no roundhouse breaking pitch, Lyon’s is top-to-bottom — or noon-to-six, as they say. Still, in 2008 he threw the fastball 72 percent of the time — 73 percent with two strikes.

As you might expect, Lyons doesn’t heave bullets across the heart of the plate. Instead, he has a Jones-like corners-nibbling approach. His favorite spots — against righties or lefties — are the outside corners. But against lefties his greatest success comes on the inside corner, up and in, and down and in. So, did the Tigers get themselves another Todd Jones?

Perhaps.

But Lyon is 10 years younger than the Tigers’ erstwhile closer and, in the spirit of optimism, he seems to have the durability and closer-ish stuff the bullpen so desperately needs.

(Oh, and Lyon wore number 38 in Arizona and will need a new one in Detroit…unless Jeremy Bonderman wants to give up his number. I’m guessing he ends up with 36.)