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.

At Last, New Uniform Numbers Announced

ScorecardXSmall.jpgApologies for the lengthy radio silence. For the past 10 days I’ve been clicking the refresh button on my Web browser at Tigers.com waiting to see if they’ve assigned numbers to Gerald Laird, Adam Everett, Edwin Jackson and Matt Treanor.

Lo and behold, today they have. Here are the numbers you’ll see in your program:

  • Laird – 8
  • Jackson – 36
  • Everett – 4
  • Treanor – 20

One number that hasn’t changed is Jeff Larish‘s number 19. In the Arizona Fall League he was wearing number 7. With Pudge Rodriguez gone, I thought Larish was making the shift. Apparently not.

Now I can get back to blogging normalcy.

Updated: I forgot to mention Brandon Lyon‘s number, 37. Looks like Kenny Rogers is retired.

Sunday Tidbits

imagescoffeecupceramic.jpgOnly on rare occasions do I find Tigers-related nuggets in my local paper, The Arizona Republic, and today qualifies as a rare occasion. Here’s one such item from the (excellent) blog of Diamondbacks beat writer Nick Piecoro:

Something we forgot to mention: The Diamondbacks were serious players for Brandon Lyon before Lyon signed with the Tigers, a deal that was finalized on Monday.

Only the Diamondbacks wanted Lyon for their rotation.

General Manager Josh Byrnes said earlier this week that Lyon received “better finances” from the Tigers. Lyon goes to Detroit as the favorite to win the closer’s job.

Lyon’s agent, Barry Meister, said Lyon was interested in the idea of starting, but timing stood in the way of making a deal happen.

“We had gotten pretty much to the end in Detroit,” Meister said, “and we were unable to change gears and do something with Arizona. Sometimes it’s just a timing issue and that was the case here.”

Given what Lynn Henning wrote this morning about the Tigers having seven starting pitchers, perhaps he’ll want to bump that number to eight?

Second tidbit: According to Piecoro, the D-backs may have big plans for former Tigers farmhand, Arizona Rule-5 pickup James Skelton:

General Manager Josh Byrnes said Rule 5 pick James Skelton already has reported to Tucson and is working with coaches Jack Howell, Chip Hale, Lorenzo Bundy and others. He’s hitting, taking ground balls, working in the weight room, etc.

It will be very interesting to see how Skelton looks at positions other than catcher, where he has played almost exclusively in the minor leagues with Detroit. He played a lot of middle infield in high school, and Byrnes wouldn’t rule out the idea of Skelton seeing time in the outfield as well.

“Athletically, he can do it,” Byrnes said.

So — and yes, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here — could he be in the mix at second base in 2010?

“That’s not the plan,” Byrnes said. “But he has a background there, he’s athletic enough to do it, has a nice bat and with his body type, maybe that’s the spot for him.”

Maybe Skelton will be a reverse-Chris Shelton situation for the Tigers. Given how Big Red’s career evaporated, let’s hope that’s not the case for Skelton.

Finally, if you’re watching the Super Bowl today root for the Cardinals. It would be nice to have a team from my town win the final football game of the year. And I don’t mean the Pro Bowl.

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.)

Friday Fungoes: Inauguration Week Edition

WoodBats.jpgClearing out a mental notebook — and a paper-based one, too — on a dreary Friday afternoon:

  • Morris Left Out Again: Our most recent poll question, Does Jack Morris deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?, pulled in 57 responses, 61 percent (35 votes) said yes; 39 percent (22 votes) said nay. Early on, the results were dead even but as the month progressed — and the Hall of Fame voting drew nearer — Morris gained steam among the Fungo Faithful.

    Alas, another year has passed and Jack the Cat will not be inducted in Cooperstown. Yes, his vote total reached 44 percent this year, but it seems that Morris may end up a Veterans’ Committee selection down the road. You know how I feel about that.

  • Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Alan Trammell garners a meager 17.4 percent? That’s embarrassing.

    Photo_122308_010.jpg

  • On this date in 1996 the Tigers acquired OF Duane Singleton from the Brewers for LHP Henry Santos.

  • And here’s one we missed from yesterday: on Jan. 22, 1992, the Tigers traded LHP Paul Gibson to the Mets for OF Mark Carreon and LHP Tony Castillo.
  • Happy 58th Birthday to former Tiger

    Charlie Spikes who played in 10 games for the 1978 Tigers (.250, 0 HR, 2 RBI). He was acquired on Dec. 9, 1977, from the Indians for shortstop Tom Veryzer.

    CharlieSpikes.jpg

  • So Brandon Lyon looks like the Tigers closer for 2009. We’ll see if he can shake off whatever ailed him last season in Arizona and actually close some games. If he does sign with the Tigers he will be the second Brandon on the team and – how’s this for minutiae? – both Brandons have last names consisting of four letters. Yeah, it’s a slow news week.

Have a great weekend.

So Much for Cruz and Lyon?

With the Diamondbacks offering salary arbitration to three players — two of them (possibly) of interest to the Tigers: relievers Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz — it would seem that Detroit will look elsewhere for bullpen help.

Cruz is a Type A free agent and would cost the Tigers (or any team that signs him) two draft picks. Lyon is a Type B free agent, would cost just one. Still, do the Tigers want to part with draft picks, especially two, for this caliber of reliever?